Shakespeare . . . er, rather . . . Goethe in love
The original German title of Young Goethe in Love is simply Goethe! Note the exclamation point, because director Philipp Stölzl's account of the love affair that set the great German author on the path to literary stardom is all about exuberance and exaggeration.
There are big, jaunty gusts of music, and there are big, jaunty gusts of acting: the Heath Ledger-esque Alexander Fehling pumps up his Johann Wolfgang von Goethe with brash, boyish verve and stormy emoting.
A wide-screen period piece (1772, provincial Germany) that's more diverting than it is deep, Young Goethe in Love tells the tale of the aspiring poet - fresh out of university, where he has failed his oral exams with spectacular fecklessness - and the farmer's daughter Lotte Buff (Miriam Stein), whom he meets and swoons over.
She, too, is aswoon, and soon the couple are running off to the woods, where they strip naked, make love, and then catch terrible colds because it's raining cats and dogs.
But the budding romance is doomed: Goethe, whose literary aspirations have been dampened by rounds of rejection letters, has taken a job clerking for a fussy judge (Moritz Bleibtreu). This man, Kestner, is a bachelor. He is well-off. And he sets his sights on Lotte, unaware that she is already involved with his upstart clerk. (Nor does Goethe know the object of Kestner's affections.) Soon, he is proposing marriage, and Lotte, torn between her ardor for Goethe and her sense of duty - Kestner could provide for her impoverished family - wells up with angst and anguish.
And Goethe wells up with angst and anguish.
There's angst and anguish all over the place.