Young Goethe In Love: Press Reactions

“While Stölzl is clearly borrowing from other historical flights of fancy, such as “Amadeus” and “Cyrano de Bergerac,” along with “Shakespeare in Love,” the helmer and fellow screenwriters Christoph Mueller and Alexander Dydyna expertly mold these elements to fit the characters and situations’ own requirements, and expertly alternate romance, humor and drama without losing their grip on the characters and their dilemmas.” – Boyd Van Hoeij, Variety


Young Goethe In Love: More Producer’s Notes by Christoph Müller

Director and co-writer Philipp Stölzl adds, “I thought the idea to tell the story about the young Goethe was great – about Sturm und Drang, about the period when he still wasn’t the famous privy councilor, minister, and poet laureate. Goethe studies law, he writes poetry, he falls unhappily in love, he fights with his father. This has elements of a young man’s rebellion; this is a Goethe you want to see in the cinema.”

Müller says about the celebrated director of NORTH FACE: “I thought working with Philipp was very inspiring; I like how precisely he handles language, timing, and direction. For me as the producer, working together on the screenplay is the ideal way to do it, because you can adjust extremely well to the director’s work methods before you start shooting the film.” Stölzl adds, “At the same time, financing the film worked out very well and happened very quickly. We only needed about a year, from the moment we started to write the script to the moment we began shooting the film. Goethe as the concept, Christoph as the producer, me as the director – that worked.”

Müller continues, “A historical film is just as elaborate as a science fiction film; you have to create a completely new world, because you can’t find locations that look the way things looked in the 18th century anymore.”

New and familiar faces in front of the camera

“Alexander Fehling had already been in films, but I didn’t know him,” says Stölzl. “He was the first candidate to show up at casting for the role of Goethe, and I knew after a minute that he’s our lead. He was 100% convincing. And then shooting with Alexander confirmed it completely. He’s an absolutely exceptional actor. He can play the comical moments as well as the tragic ones; he has an unbelievable palette – everything you want from an actor. We were extremely lucky to
find him. His precise performance is also the result of our close collaboration, as we worked on and tried many variations together to arrive at what would serve the role the best.”

On casting Miriam Stein as Lotte, Müller explains, “It’s very, very rare that you discover someone like Miriam. With Goethe and also with Lotte, we considered whether we should cast established stars, because with an elaborate costume film, in your mind you automatically see big names on the film poster. But we liked Miriam best for the role of Lotte. Though she he had never been in a feature film before, she rewarded us with her unbelievably intense performance.” Stölzl agrees,

“As Lotte, with her tousled hair, young Miriam Stein is the right contrast to Goethe. Most of all, she’s a convincing actress with a large emotional range, which enraptured me and made me proud.”

Goethe is not the only one who falls in love with Lotte – his superior, court councilor Kestner, does, too. Moritz Bleibtreu plays this role. “Moritz feels at home in every genre, from drama to comedy,” says Müller. “With his very perceptive performance in the difficult role of Kestner he resonates with the audience.” Stölzl adds, “You could have also cast Kestner as grayer and more bureaucratic. But we also wanted to show him as an attractive man; the audience has to believe he wants to marry this girl at any cost. There’s something touching about that. This means the two men trying to win over Lotte’s heart have more or less the same chance. If you wanted to make the accents clear from the start, then over here you would have the young, good-looking wild one, and over there the plain, boring one, who can only offer the girl a long and dismal married life— but then there wouldn’t be any tension. That’s why I’m even happier now about how well the triangle works between the men and Lotte.”

The ensemble includes two renowned actors as the fathers: Burghart Klaussner and Henry Hübchen shine with the qualities you want to have in these small yet decisive roles.

Young Goethe In Love: Producer’s Notes by Christoph Müller

Goethe is Germany’s most famous and important poet and philosopher, yet there has never been a relevant feature film about this extraordinary personality.

There’s a reason for this, too: Goethe could do everything and was everything! He was handsome, came from a wealthy family, wrote successful novels, theater plays and poems, was an accomplished horseback rider and fencer, invented roller skates and discovered the pharyngeal bone, and he was a natural scientist, privy councilor, traveler, artist, minister, lawyer, and much, much more – all in all, a universal genius and thus a completely non-dramatic character for a feature film! But there was a time in young Goethe’s life when he was tortured by self-doubt and self-discovery. A time when he almost died due to an unrequited love, and the only thing that rescued him was dealing with the episode by writing about it.

The film YOUNG GOETHE IN LOVE tells the story of this 23-year-old, who achieved his greatest artistic success as a result of his greatest love pangs: The Sorrows of Young Werther. The appeal of the story is that it shows Goethe was not always the mythical figure and all-round genius as portrayed in thousands of books, interpretations and theories, but rather a young man who loved and suffered.
-Christoph Müller

“What’s exciting about the story of how Werther was created is that it was Goethe’s most personal, almost autobiographic novel, a work he was the proudest of, along with ‘Faust’,” says producer and co-writer, Christoph Müller.

“What’s also unusual about the publishing history of Werther is that the exciting story in the epistolary novel has always been, even back then, viewed in connection with the actual events in Goethe’s life. Almost every reader knew Goethe had experienced the love story with Lotte himself,” continues Müller. “The wave of suicides as a result of Werther was the first media phenomenon and had never been seen before. The young men who killed themselves after reading Werther, however, ignored, the fact that Goethe was able to rescue himself from his self destructive mood by writing the book.”

But not only unhappy lovers devoured the famous novel. “Werther was an immense catalyst of sentimental pessimism, yearning, and passion,” says Müller. “At first I developed a cinematic story that dealt with the period after the success of Werther and Goethe’s writer’s block afterwards – until my brother Markus came up with the idea that it would be much more exciting to develop the story of the ‘blissful and dangerous summer of 1772 in Wetzlar,’ which led to the creation of Werther. We then worked on different constellations of this story for a long time, but it wasn’t until Philipp Stölzl and our young co-author, Alexander Dydyna, came along that we finally managed to hit on the right concept for the script.”

Preview: Young Goethe In Love

First we had young William Shakespeare in Love back in 1998. Now we have German poet Johann Goethe and his epic love that propelled him to greatness. This German language film promises to be a rich and intense look at the biography of Goethe. For those unfamiliar with the German philosopher, this film with make you want to read his works which have been translated into English. Writing comes from the heart and many great literary giants who belong to history were born out of heartbreak. Like England’s Keats, Goethe is no exception. His love lives on in the many ways he expressed to his beloved: Ich Lieben Die (I Love You).

Young Goethe In Love

Germany 1772 – the young and tumultuous Johann Goethe (Alexander Fehling) aspires to be a poet but after failing his law exams, is sent by his father (Henry Huebchen) to a sleepy provincial court to mend his ways. Unsure of his talent and eager to prove himself, Goethe soon wins the praise and friendship of his superior Kestner (Moritz Bleibtreu). But then Lotte (Miriam Stein) enters his life and nothing is the same as before. However, the young lovers are unaware that her father has already promised Lotte’s hand to another man.

Germany 1772 – the young and tumultuous Johann Goethe (Alexander Fehling) aspires to be a poet; but after failing his law exams, he is sent by his father (Henry Huebchen) to a sleepy provincial court to mend his ways. Unsure of his talent and eager to prove himself, Goethe soon wins the praise and friendship of his superior Kestner (Moritz Bleibtreu). But then Lotte (Miriam Stein) enters his life and nothing is the same as before. However, the young lovers are unaware that her father has already promised Lotte’s hand to another man.

Director Phillip Stölzl (“Northface”) returns to the very wellspring of Romanticism – Goethe’s autobiographical masterpiece “The Sorrows of Young Werther” – and conjures up a beguiling and refreshingly innocent period romance.

Crazy About Like Crazy

Remember what it was like to be young and in love? Hollywood does but it gives us trivia and formula like young love romances by the bundle. If Glee is the highlight of teen romance then one has to wonder if its just one big adolescent hormone running the show. Until a movie such as Like Crazy comes around and reminds you that young love is just as real and potent as older adult love. Like Crazy examines just how much the soul can tug you to another. Its like a magnetic force. You can be thousands of miles away but that other person is still inside you. As you get older you may forget what that dizzy emotion of love and passion once was. Your mind may become so rational that it disowns any thoughts of bliss. Like Crazy serves as a reminder of how deep a bond can be. We all need to remember just how much we too once loved someone. Love is what makes us human. Watching Like Crazy is as much about knowing how sad we are when love leaves us and how lucky we were to have found it.

Photo courtesy of Fred Hayes/Paramount Pictures

Muse and Musings of the Week: Michael Fassbender and Shame

He smokes, he’s wild, he’s a heart-breaker lady killer without apology, he inspires ramblings that would make Anais Nin blush, and has an eye for something dangerous in his method. He is Michael Fassbender. Perfectly imperfect in so many ways. Never was admiring a bad boy this good because his acting is out of this world. Do I really have to wait another month for his next two movies? Hugh Jackman is my favorite but he seems so perfect that sometimes I wonder if he is real? I know he is but in being so good Hugh Jackman feels like he exists in another plane of existence. Why? Because Hugh is too good to be true but he is. And life is gritty, and stark, and even dark at times. So when Michael Fassbender appears he is just as exceptionally handsome but you can believe him as real. He just feels real to me.

Someone else in the tumblr universe mentioned this in respect to Fassbender the Ginger’s post about the oversexed fans and their ramblings. I totally agree. Sensuality is not about sex. It is defined by an awakening of the senses: sight, hearing, touch, sound, scent. Perfume and fragrances that awake you are sensual. Beautifully prepared food is also sensual. The notion of sensuality in an actor is the degree of believability in their more passionate scenes and the level of comfort in their own skin. A person who is comfortable in their sexuality in a quiet confident way is sensual. It is not about sex. It is about being able to rest within oneself and acknowledge that sexuality is the opposite side of the coin to spirituality. To me, Michael Fassbender is sensual in many ways because he brings his whole self to a role – his voice, his eyes, his movements, etc.

Sexuality is what it is. It is sex, attraction, physical connection, and hormones.Anyone can be a sex symbol. Not everyone can be sensual. People who are not comfortable in their own bodies may react to a person who is in tune with their sensuality in an intense way. They can’t give themselves permission to own it and so they go haywire and project their repression onto someone who doesn’t repress that side of them. What makes the fantasy postings so disrespectful is that they reduce a person to a body part. That’s not cool. Shame is bringing out fangs in the fandom. Maybe its the latent puritanical streak in some places. I don’t have an answer. All I will say is that consider this: Channing Tatum was a male stripper. He can’t act to the level that a Tom Hardy or Michael Fassbender can. Why not redirect fantasies to someone like him? Consider this also – Kim Kardashian is famous for a sex tape. Projecting fantasies on to her are understandable. To mix someone like Fassbender into that mix is insulting, disgusting, and sickening.

Sure I may get hate mail for this one. But I am standing my ground. He does not have sex in Shame. He plays a role about the destructive journey of a sex addict. Kim Kardashian DID have sex on film and Channing Tatum WAS a male stripper. The later two delved in that seedy place. Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy are actors and artists and for what they bring to the screen, deserve the acknowledgment of that.

So I’m with Fassbender the Ginger on her thoughts about the overtly libidinous ramblings that some Fassy fans have been participating in. While I agree that Michael Fassbender has had some steamy roles to reduce him to just that is disrespectful and diminishes his talent. I am not just saying this for him but if the Hugh Jackman fandom were posting relentless lustful fantasies about him I would be equally dismayed. It would be nice if people would look past Shame and actually see the harrowing story underneath.

There are many discussions about Michael Fassbender on his acting ability and the level of discipline he brings to a role. This is not only professional but it is above and beyond what most movie stars are willing to go through.

Reality TV has taken over and people like Snooki and The Situation think they are actors! Its too much. Even movie stars don’t always act. Where are the Meryl Streeps or the Marlon Brandos? Few and far between. The best talent in people’s minds seem to be what they see on Glee. Unfortunately, that’s not the best it can get. Now that Michael Fassbender is quickly ascending to the A-list its a chance for American audiences to be reminded what acting is all about. Most of the great actors are older or belong to another generation. With his youth and good looks, someone like Michael Fassbender brings back what the young Marlon Brando brought – ability, sex appeal, good looks, and a presence that lights up the screen like nothing else. Another fan on IMDB said that Michael Fassbender could play a cafeteria worker for 5 minutes on Glee and outshine Matthew Morrison without trying. That’s why America needs to see someone like Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy. So they realize that they have been fed a diet of entertainment that is anemic and empty. If more people demand quality then we will get quality.

The Shame of it all. It sometimes takes an extensive foreign film festival ticket collection to find rare movie gems that actually display the art and soul of cinematography. For those of you who loved the X-Men and Jane Eyre there is the new Steve McQueen movie Shame that hits American theaters on December 2, 2011. Its star is the talented Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender who played Magneto. Fassbender has been described as the new Marlon Brando and his range is impressive. What is a Shame is that many believe the dark voyeuristic story of a passion addicted Manhatten yuppie will be too much for American audiences. That’s a shame because if it is a social critique it is a compelling tale of the loss of connection in a harried busy world and the meaningless tryst that only deepen the void. Fassbender was brilliant as Irish MP Bobby Sands in 2008’s Hunger which was also a film by Steve McQueen. What is the biggest shame of all is the rumor that the powers that be are pushing Clooney in the Oscar race for his role in Descendants. Clooney is also a fine actor but Shame goes beyond the obvious R rating scenes to reveal the despair of loneliness and how meaningless random hook-ups can get. Addiction is no joke and one thing about Fassbender’s character is that he is in a chronic misery that he tries to find relief for through the strange encounters all over New York.

Its inevitable that people are going to go all Anais Nin on their blogs about how attractive Fassy is. While its understandable in younger fans this is not an age issue. Michael Fassbender possesses the kind of geometric symmetry and gait that increases a person’s attractive quotient. The truth is there is more to him that his looks. I stress this because I’m one of those people who has seen good looks fade and expose nothing underneath. Fassbender seems different and in my opinion too much focus on his physical state could lead to the double edge sword of sex symbol status. For me that means that people don’t take you so seriously and you are lumped in the same category as the pretty boys of the moment. Maybe I am too conservative for wanting people to discuss his method instead of how his leather jacket looks makes them feel dizzy. Perhaps being in awe of the way he sacrificed to be Bobby Sands in self starvation of his art is what attracts me to him. Not so much the photogenic pictures that are blogged daily on the Internet.

On a side note – Michael Fassbender has become a muse. No matter what is assigned to me at the MFA level I can write and imagine him playing my character in the narrative. That chameleon ability makes it so easy. When I tumblr for the Fassy the words tumble out of my pen as I describe his work. The funny thing is I can’t review his commercial films. I’ve tried to do X-Men: First Class but the words stall and the muse goes away. The only way I can generate any literary statements about Fassy is when I write only on his Indie work. So once Prometheus is out there won’t be a review on this site and ditto for RoboCop. The actor provokes the wordsmith muse. The movie star cannot.

Photo courtesy of X-Men: First Class

Fame Versus Stardom: The Distinction

Every one in a while there are those stars who come along that become reference points. Their names become developmental milestones by which other performers are measured. Hollywood used to have a few select icons – like Bette Davis or Montgomery Clift. As the decades wore on in the 20th century, Tinseltown produced more stars but lesser legends. For example, Madonna is a milestone motif because Lady Gaga has been referred to as the heir to the Queen of Pop.Clint Eastwood was used to herald the arrival of Hugh Jackman and Meryl Streep is the American standard that U.S. actors are to aspire towards. In Britain the Queen grants titles like Dame and Sir to thespians whose names are synonymous with the craft of acting – Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Judi Dench.

An actor is a compass. Each role begins as a blank slate. They bring a part of themselves to a character but its the role they play. Unfortunately many stars only really play themselves regardless of the role. The whole point of an actor as a profession is to act. But often we don’t get that. When Paul Newman and Marlon Brando died they left a legacy of performances that have made their names immortal. But maybe they are back. Bradley Cooper’s baby blues hint at another Paul Newman while Michael Fassbender seems to be Brando reincarnated.

I’m really glad Michael Fassbender is famous. Hugh Jackman has always warmed and touched my heart by his acting and what appears to be a nice personality. But Michael Fassbender the actor has deeply touched my soul. The way I reacted to the young Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, or Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, or any number of films with Sir Laurence Olivier, happened when I found Fassy. My response to Fassy was visceral and happened by accident when I accidentally discovered him not once but twice. First in Fish Tank and then in X-Men: First Class, then later in Jane Eyre. He had what Meryl Streep has and he is the only one of the few who do have this gift.

Even when he isn’t speaking he is acting. It’s in the subtle movements, the look in his eyes, the way he melts into a character. Streep has this ability. She can do accents, change appearances, and even speak a foreign language like a native. No wonder she still gets roles. Michael Fassbender the man remains a mystery because his characters become him.

So why does he reach me when no other actor since Streep cannot? Because he is what acting is about. We think he is truly that person he plays. You can’t tell he is acting. Just like great plastic surgery – only he knows who he is. Streep is famous but she pursued a craft and got famous for it. Most Hollywood stars were people who wanted the attention that fame brought and got into acting. These people don’t seem to have much craft.

On some level there are people who were born to be exceptional. You couldn’t imagine them being anything else. Meryl Streep not acting would be blasphemous. We need to see it. Fate allowed it. Same too with Fassy. Steve McQueen and Hunger changed his life. Maybe the world was ready to see this kind of gift again. We had lost Brando in 2004, Streep is female, Olivier long gone, and reality TV was taking over. But the void left by Brando was filled by the person who is now compared to him – Michael Fassbender.

There is a respect for someone who takes it seriously like any true professional. Fassbender lost half his body weight to convince us he was Bobby Sands. That’s dedication. Would most actors do that? No, they’d want a body double or CGI to do it for them. Gwyneth Paltrow gained weight for Country Strong despite being a fitness devotee. Those are the moments when the genuine article emerges in contrast to the fake and artificial. It’s as if we have been on a diet of fast food entertainment and when we see a Streep or a Fassbender we have an organic feast in front of us. And we can’t go back. I can’t watch bubble gum crap TV or movies anymore now that I have seen Fish Tank and Hunger. Finding Fassbender the actor makes me wonder if America seems to think that the best acting talent on display possible is Glee. For those who have never seen Streep or Fassy, they are anemic in their choices. They haven’t found the sweet spot.

Like I’ve said before, Fassy takes me to where he is. I’m in the story with him. No doubt I’m merged with the acting and the scene. When you feel what the character feels you are thick in the plot.

Someone said that my tumblr made them love him more for how he has touched me. Yes, he sure has and I’ve never met the guy. But I feel like some thespian spring has returned and actors like Brando are back. Once in a lifetime we find them if we are lucky. Then we follow their careers if we want to watch quality.

So … to answer someone’s question – why does Fassy touch my soul? I’ll explain in connection to my other favorite actor for years Hugh Jackman.

With Hugh Jackman he brings warmth to the screen. He is a real movie star and his eyes have always seemed kind to me. Peaceful even. In interviews he is well spoken and personable. His talent as a triple threat (actor, singer, dancer) and devotion to his wife and family is just lovely. On screen and off screen Hugh Jackman is like a positive vibe who makes you melt when you see how much in love he is with his equally lovely wife Deb and their kids. Jackman’s enduring marriage reminds me of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s 50 year union. So yes, Hugh Jackman still warms my heart for being a professional and being a kind human being for his charitable works.

Then there is Michael Fassbender. It’s something else with him. Je ne sais quoi – I don’t know what it is. When I see Fassy’s eyes its like they express a complexity. They smile, but I can’t pinpoint a single word to describe it. Cliché I know but they are as deep as the ocean, as wide as the sea. Michael Fassbender’s eyes are like are an arctic ocean ice blue hue that resonates with me. It took Fassy a while to get noticed. There was a slow burn to his ascent. Too much too soon too fast seems to be bad for those who want staying power. And like Jackman, Fassy can sing. He is an artist.

Fassy touches me for inciting a compassion for Magneto that I did not have before in previous X-Men films. Fassy touches me because he seems to draw attention to his work and isn’t in a fame chaser. Fassy seems real in some way. Like if he weren’t famous you could imagine talking to him. He is the guy at the pub or the one you see on the train on your morning commute or the man who works at the bank. Despite being exceptionally handsome he feels accessible in a distinct way. He connects so well one could imagine him your life.

Update: Michael Fassbender was named GQ Breakout star of the Year 2011

Photo courtesy of Harrods Magazine

The Actor’s Actor: Michael Fassbender

Hugh Jackman is my favorite actor. Ever since Paperback Hero, an early pre-Hollywood fame movie in his native Australia he has been my celebrity hero. There is alot to admire with Jackman and I always see any film he is in. This is one fan whose always going to cheer on the Australian superstar. Yet now, I’ve chosen Michael Fassbender as my top actor’s actor. Why? There is something special in Fassbender just like Hugh but also a kind of changeling ability that sets him apart.

My first thought when I first saw Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank was: bad boy, dangerous, dark knight type, and this was way before I saw any old episodes of Hex. Yet I didn’t recognize him as the young Magneto because he shifted into that role 100%. Then I saw Jane Eyre and it dawned on me: this guy is a chameleon. Later still, I saw him play the guitar and sing and his dance moves in Fish Tank and Wedding Belles shows a physicality that is natural.

Do I still think Fassy is a bad boy. I sure do. But that is not the allure of him. For me, its his talent which is something raw and harnessed at the same time. His eyes are intense. They are a smiling pair of baby blues but there is a “je ne sais quoi” that compels you to look. This guy is intense without being too serious. A range of depth appears to be his calling card and a trademark. Marlon Brando has been returned to us in the form of Michael Fassbender. Yes, that is it. He is the genuine article. Not the also ran reproduction of the Hollywood star machine. Fyi – je ne sais quoi is French for “I don’t know what it is”. It hints at a mystique (mystery not the X-Men character).

So why have I chosen Michael Fassbender. His acting takes me to another world. I get lost in the story. I’m somewhat transported to where he is. There is no distance between the audience and the screen. He pulsates and exudes a virility in his acting that you feel you’re in it with him. Maybe that is why Steve McQueen said – you can believe Michael. Who can resist him when he displays his singing, German speaking ability, and stares at the camera with THOSE eyes. If the eyes are the mirror to the soul its the conduit to an intense intimacy he can draw in with the audience. You bond to his work.

And I look forward to much more believable roles for many years to come.

Photo courtesy of WSJ

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