Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Young Goethe in Love (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Young Goethe in Love / Goethe!

O,  as a once blonde haired and cherry -cheeked student of literature, I find myself wishing I could be easy on this little Sturm in pictures!  O, how I am of two minds with my electronic pen!
Alas, here we have the almost unbearable pretentiously titled "Young Goethe in Love" or "Goethe!" in German.  Really? After Shakespeare himself? A boo-boo from the get go...yet it is so. 

Here is the young poet Johann Wolfgang  von Goethe. (Alexander Frehling) he is in school. He is bumbling and charmless, falling over himself. He blushes, but he's not really sorry. He says some reverse drivel about Augustine. His dialogue  would make Abbott & Costello into Rhodes scholars. Then he suddenly makes a show of writing "Kiss my Ass" dancing an stomping--a human scissors---in the snow. This makes the great poet into a  clown on the order of "Dumb and Dumber". It's a stretch for the great German modern poet and playwright, even as a young man of twenty three.

 I don't buy it.

 In this film, Goethe may as well be a silly Shakespeare on the order of "Anonymous". The Faustian genius is watery and generic here. He could be one of countless men. The real Goethe, as much as I have researched, was a deeply conservative but spiritual man.  Goethe was a naturalist, a champion of science, and a pioneer in color theory. Shouldn't  there be something of that man here? I argue that there should be, if only a mere puff of  personality to suspend disbelief.  

 That being said (and here is where my double mind kicks in) it is a charming enough romance. Lotte (Miriam Stein) is fresh and voluptuous and needless to say, she falls for our young poet. No surprises here. There are the usual lovesick chases over bridges and hedges and some familiar wax-sealed letters. However, the action is quick and the actors are so pleasing to the eye that it will hold your attention.

The most hypnotic aspect of the film is its preoccupation with duel and suicide. We see it here for how it might have appeared to young eyes: flamboyant, but also trite and narcissistic. Alexander Frehling is charming and handsome in this all too ordinary role, with very little Goethe in his knickers. Still, his face on screen trumps all and he appears uncannily, like the late Heath Ledger. Goethe he isn't, but as a young nonchalant brooding Bro, he is one to watch.

 The cinematography is sweeping and pleasant, recalling many Ivory / Merchant productions. With just a little more pushing, we could have a visual echo of Edmund Burke and his Theory of the Sublime: the mountains towering above an abandoned church in ruins. This would have been more worthy of our Young Werther.

I asked numerous people upon leaving the film what their impression was. "Cute" was the one word response that I invariably received. Zounds-o-Rama. Cute is fine, but there is nothing of Goethe in these pastures. Please call it something else.

Write Ian at redtv_2005@yahoo.com

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