Young Goethe in Love
The booming German title is Goethe! Philipp Stölzl’s film about the youthful Johann Wolfgang Goethe (Alexander Fehling) seems an attempt to depict the greatest German writer as a budding rock star of stage and pen. That fantasy falls inside the range of giddy art-hero hits such as Amadeus and Shakespeare in Love. And it makes some sense, as the story is about the genesis of Goethe’s heart-stricken novella Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), a spark of the Romantic movement that possibly ignited a rash of imitative suicides and is the ancestor of modern stuff such as the Twilight series.
While law-clerking in provincial Wetzlar, Goethe goes beyond lifting steins in the local beer hall. His motivation is Charlotte Buff, whose debt-burdened father presses her to marry a rising lawyer (Moritz Bleibtreu). A rainy day with fertile nature quickens the poetic muse, and since gracious sublimation is now a dated concept to most people, the movie fleshes out the erotic element. After a duel, a friend’s suicide, and upheavals with lovely Charlotte, Goethe can morph creatively into the fated, lovesick Werther.
This is gemütlich-kitsch of strong pedigree. Stölzl, who also made a Wagner film, is good with sensitive sensuality. He has strong settings, costumes, dances, even a bravura burst of Bach. The motorizing force is the appetite of the attractive Goethe for the tonic and Teutonic charms of Miriam Stein as Charlotte. She is a poet’s dream in flesh, with elements of Debra Winger and Sean Young in their prime.
Reviewed in the movie capsules: Arthur's Christmas and A Warrior’s Heart.