Young Törless (German: Der junge Törless) is a 1966 German film directed by Volker Schlöndorff, adapted from the autobiographical novel The Confusions of Young Törless by Robert Musil. It deals with the violent, sadistic and homoerotic tendencies of a group of boys at an Austrian military academy at the beginning of the 20th century.
|Directed by||Volker Schlöndorff|
|Written by||Volker Schlöndorff|
Robert Musil (novel)
|Edited by||Claus von Boro|
|Music by||Hans Werner Henze|
|Distributed by||Nora Filmverleih|
At the beginning of the 20th century, Thomas Törless (Mathieu Carrière) arrives at the academy and learns how Anselm von Basini (Marian Seidowsky) has been caught stealing by fellow student Reiting (Fred Dietz). Basini is obliged to become Reiting's "slave," bowing to Reiting's sadistic rituals. Törless follows their relationship with intellectual interest but without emotional involvement.
Also partaking in these sessions is Beineberg (Bernd Tischer), with whom Törless visits Bozena (Barbara Steele), the local prostitute. Again, Törless is aloof and more intrigued than excited by the woman.
He is however very eager to understand imaginary numbers, which are mentioned in his maths lesson. The maths teacher is unwilling or unable to explain what these are, stating that in life, emotion is what rules everything - even mathematics.
After Basini is humiliated and suspended upside down in the school gym because of one of Reiting's intrigues, Törless realises intellectually that the other boys are simply cruel. He seems no more or less emotionally moved by this than by the revelation that he cannot understand imaginary numbers. He decides that he does not want to partake in cruelty, so decides to leave the academy. His teachers think that he is too "highly strung" for his own good, and do not want him to stay anyway - they are part of the system which can allow such terrible things to be done to the weak and vulnerable.
At the end of the film, Törless is dismissed from the school and leaves with his mother, smiling.
The film's significance as a cultural artifact of German post-World War II introspection is enhanced by the fact that its haunting medieval-sounding score was written by Hans Werner Henze, the German modernist composer. Henze, who came of age during the war, was prominent enough in this introspection by virtue of his left-political activism in the arts to feel driven to expatriation from Germany. Hans Werner Henze later arranged a suite from the original score, which was entitled Fantasia for Strings.
Release and awardsEdit
Young Törless was screened on 9 May 1966 at the Cannes Film Festival. The film won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival. It was also selected as the German entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 39th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.