Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original title: Der Junge Torless
West Germany/France, 1966. Franz Seitz Filmproduktion, Nouvelles Editions de Films. Screenplay by Volker Schlondorff, adaptation by Herbert Asmodi, based on the novel by Robert Musil. Cinematography by Franz Rath. Produced by Louis Malle, Franz Seitz. Music by Hans Werner Henze. Production Design by Maleen Pacha. Costume Design by Eva Gall, Maleen Pacha. Film Editing by Claus von Boro.
The rigid world of private schools is the setting of this adaptation of Robert Musil’s novel, which also serves as the international debut of filmmaker Volker Schlondorff. Three students become the bullies of one when they find out that he has stolen money from a peer’s locker, and threaten to expose him to authority. Rather than risk being dishonourably removed from their school, the thief submits to being a veritable slave to his blackmailers, eventually bearing the brunt of all their frustrations and anxieties as they pass quite insecurely into manhood. Thomas Torless, the most poetic and philosophical of the bunch, feels it is all acceptable until he starts to wonder at the validity of the situation: are they evening out moral ineptitude, or have they crossed into the area of immoral sadism? Although not as captivating as Zero For Conduct or If…, the film is a notable debut for Schlondorff and displays an allegory of fascism as natural phenomenon without using a big flaming arrow to do it. Its microcosmic display is subtle, as are the performances from the youngsters who are all very strong in their roles.
The Criterion Collection: #279