LOVE IN THOUGHTS: A Universal Parable of Love Lost

Posted: 08/03/2010 in The Verdict, Waxing Lyrical
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Love In Thoughts/ Wäs Nützt die Liebe in Gedanken (von Borries, 2004. DE)

The defining image of Love In Thoughts is that of  a butterfly delicately balancing on the trigger guard of a cocked revolver. “Dear Universe,” writes our protagonist and thus begins a hazy elegy to youth and summer and a maligned land, suspended in a historically condemned time, where it is easy to forget young people who played no part in the last war and had not yet anticipated the next. Young people who must still come of age, regardless of politics, where the wealthy and the privileged still occupied unsullied, beautiful spaces.

This film is a visual poem, a dreamy recollection of a bygone age, in a land caught like a fly in amber. The written poetry, which weaves throughout-binding together snapshots, clearly loses something in translation, but the point is still clear- what is the value of a life lived in ideas?

Noble theories and poetic notions have their place, but they are a dream and the poet is a sleepwalker.

The delicate balance between the thoughts and actions of impetuous, idealistic youth mirrors the wider situation in Europe- precarious equilibrium; before the full might of the Soviets is reached, before a resentful Germany is sunk into a crippling depression.

Guenther, the dynamo at the centre of the bohemian machine which is the beautiful student intelligentsia, waxes lyrical about how a person may be truly happy only once in their lives, so that they may be punished ever after by the memory of that idyllic moment. It is a powerful metaphor and the innocent poet Paul’s guileless observation that it would be best to ‘say goodbye’ at that, your greatest moment, your zenith, has chilling prescience. “Dear Posterity,” his disembodied voice intones.

The microcosm of privilege and excess, their grand ideas, high ideals, the jealousy of spurned lovers, the anguish of unrequited loves, strange bedfellows and halcyon hedonism that could never last: all of these things weave an illusive tapestry illustrative of the times.

Tension run high, fault lines deepen and there is only one way this can end. Some will perish heroes, others will be vilified in survival, but none will escape unscathed, unchanged. It will be bloody.

The world thought it could heal the wounds of The Great War, but with hindsight that was simply blind hope; idealism barely cognisant of  the short fuses and shorter memories of nations.

With a strong performance from international star Daniel Brühl as the sometime narrator Paul, who commits his confession, like a love letter, to celluloid, this film is a parable of passion, ideology and eventually, responsibility. Truly arresting cinema from a generation of Germans facing and examining their past.

There is something of Bertolucci’s The Dreamers about this film, but with the idealistic intensity of the original script sans superimposed perversity, courtesy of the renowned Italian letch.

A closing note: Like so many international films Love In Thoughts is marred by jarring Americanisms in the subtitles, “That’s a bunch of baloney” being the most obvious example. No attempt is made to reflect the native semantics, a fate which can detract from the most evocative storytelling. If your German is good enough, I strongly recommend hearing this film as it was writ. If not, then be aware, you are receiving a diluted form. A real shame for such a beautiful film.

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  1. […] LOVE IN THOUGHTS: A Universal Parable of Love Lost March 2010 5 […]

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