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The Criterion Collection presents
Young Törless (1966)

"What could happen, Dad?"
- Törless (Mathieu Carrière)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: March 14, 2005

Stars: Mathieu Carriere, Marian Seidowsky, Bernd Tischer, Fred Dietz
Other Stars: Lotte Ledl, Jean Launay, Barbara Steele
Director: Volker Schlšndorff

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations)
Run Time: 01h:27m:46s
Release Date: March 15, 2005
UPC: 037429205327
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Director Volker Schlondorff is behind some of the most important films in German cinema. Classics like The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum and The Tin Drum almost singlehandedly put German cinema on the map, ushering in a new age both in Germany and abroad. The 65-year-old Schlöndorff is still working today, having directed more mainstream fare like 1990's The Handmaid's Tale. However, none of these films would have ever been made without the success of Schlöndorff's first directorial effort, Young Törless.

Based on Robert Musil's 1906 novel, The Confusions of Young Törless, Schlöndorff's 1966 film is set in an Austrian boys' boarding school in the early 1900s, and focuses on Thomas Törless, who seems to be the most intelligent of the group of kids he hangs out with. Törless always stays on the sidelines as his friends torment various other boys. Their favorite subject of torment is Basini, whom they have accused of stealing money from the grounds. Whether Basini has actually stolen the money or not is irrelevant, as Törless' friends, led by Beineberg and Reiting, continue to torture Basini both physically and psychologically.

The real power of the film is the way Volker Schlöndorff causes his audience to contemplate the differences between right and wrong, using Törless as his medium. By removing himself from the torture, Törless is able to discuss, both person-to-person and in his journal, just what this torture could mean not only to Basini but to society as a whole. After numerous incidents of torture culminate in a harrowing climax, Törless, in the film's coda, gives an impassioned speech to the school's headmasters that irreversibly changes his life's path. Whether this change is for good or not has been left up to the viewer to decide, which is just another beautifully rewarding aspect of the film.

Mathieu Càrriere gives a revealing, compelling performance as the title character, coming across as the perfect blend of innocent, intellectual, and closet deviant. In only his second film, Càrriere comes across as a seasoned professional, remaining genuine and focused throughout the film. Since Young Törless, the actor has gone on to appear in over 100 (mostly German) movies, including American films like 1992's Shining Through and 2003's Luther.

The other young actors do excellent jobs as well, with Marian Seidowksy (Basini) and Fred Dietz (Reiting) really standing out. It's a breath of fresh air to see these young actors carry an entire film with hardly any help from adults. In this regard, the makers of a recent film like the excellent Mean Creek owe a lot to Young Törless, which really set the bar for films that are spearheaded by a group of talented youngsters.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.75:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Young Törless is presented in anamorphic 1.75:1 widescreen, preserving the film's original aspect ratio. This director-approved transfer sports nice, deep black levels and excellent rendering of grays. There is quite a bit of grain present and a few scratches in the print, but the fact that this is kept to a minimum and not digitally altered is much more pleasing to the eye than the alternative.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital Mono track is about as impressive as can be expected given the limitations of the format. While nothing to write home about, at least the dialogue is seamlessly integrated into the mix, which is free from any hissing or other distortion.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Isolated Music Score
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. A German Movie: A video interview with director Volker Schlondorff, in which he discusses the making of Young Torless.
  2. The Author with Qualities: Text essay about the author behind the inspiration for Young Torless.
  3. Stills Gallery: A collection or rare behind-the-scenes photos and promotional art for Young Torless.
Extras Review: While there aren't a ton of extras, the ones that have been included are very worthwhile, beginning with the newly-shot A German Movie. This interview with Volker Schlöndorff features a candid, in-depth discussion of Young Törless, in which he reminisces about working with young actors and the difference his film made in regards to German cinema.

The other major extra is the rare presentation of the film's original score by composer Hans Werner Henze. There's also an insightful video introduction to the score by Schlöndorff. Rounding out the extras is a text-based essay, a stills gallery, and the original theatrical trailer for the feature.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Young Torless finally comes to DVD courtesy of the always reliable Criterion Collection. They definitely don't disappoint, once again, with the film looking and sounding better than it ever has thanks to wonderful source material restoration. There are even some nice extras that beautifully complement this often forgotten classic. Leave it to Criterion to produce a more than worthy DVD for this classic film.


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