Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Young Goethe In Love

The 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival ended Oct. 2nd, and we went up to the North Shore Cinemas to see "Young Goethe in Love," which deals with a critical period in the life of Germany's most famous poet and playwright. It's not a good time for the 23-year old. In rapid succession, he has flunked out of law school, had a play rejected in humiliating terms, and been told by his father that unless he shapes up and accepts a legal apprenticeship Dad has arranged for him in the backwater town of Wetzlar, there will be no more parental support and he's out on his own. With no other prospects, Johann grudgingly agrees and takes up the grim and regimented life of a court clerk.

Things eventually begin to get better as he builds a friendship with his deskmate, Wilhelm Jerusalem, gains the respect of his superior, Counsellor Kestner, and falls in love with Charlotte "Lotte" Buff, the daughter of a struggling farmer--not knowing that Lotte's father is in the process of arranging a marriage for her with Kestner in order to save the farm.

There's no coincidence in the English release being titled "Young Goethe in Love," since the movie (simply titled "Goethe!" in the original) is giving Goethe the "Shakespeare In Love" treatment--i.e., creating a romanticized and fictionalized story out of events that have a loose relationship to the film plot. That being said, it's a very enjoyable film. It is beautifully shot and looks well, with late 18th Century Germany looking appropriately gritty, sooty, muddy, dusty, and dim (interiors are mostly candle-lit) so that Goethe's escapes to the beautiful countryside are quite easy to understand.

The cast is very fine. Alexander Fehling as Goethe even looks rather like the young author, and deals with his ups and downs very well. As is often the case with European films, most of the cast can out-act typical Hollywood actors without saying a word, as in the scene where Johann and Kestner (Moritz Bleibtreu) make the mutually horribly embarrassing discovery that Lotte (Miriam Stein)is both Kestner's fiance and Johann's lover. The profound discomfort all three of them are feeling comes clearly across, although rigid propriety is maintained by the characters.

Good fun, good to look at, and very enjoyable although only a 'biopic' in the loosest sense, although it did inspire me to look up more about Goethe, who was in fact a genius and a fascinating character in his own right.

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Tags: historical, movies
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