Love in Thoughts Movie Review

I wasn't expecting much from this movie. It's called -- appallingly -- Love in Thoughts (or at least that's how it's loosely translated from German), and the cover shows two young men with their shirts unbuttoned, standing in a field of golden grain.

Well, you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover and you shouldn't judge a DVD by one, either.

Love in Thoughts is a taut and exciting thriller that deserves a much bigger audience than it will ever receive.

The story is based on an incident in 1927 (known commonly as the Steglitz Student tragedy), unknown in the States but the equivalent of Leopold and Loeb for Germany, a trial which had been decided in Illinois only three years prior.

The setup is familiar: Two college kids, Paul (Daniel Brühl) and Günther (August Diehl) spend a break in the country, inexplicably unsupervised by anyone at all responsible. While they're best friends and have a similar outlook on life, Paul and Günther are quite opposites: Paul's a working-class wannabe poet, and Günther is a disinterested rich kid with no future plans beyond what he's drinking that evening. Complicating the friendship is Paul's unrequited love for Günther's sister Hilde (Anna Maria Mühe, who looks like Anne Heche if you compressed her head by a third but left her eyes normal size), plus a tangle of other relationships that no one wants to take seriously but ends up with hurt feelings all around.

All this talk of love leads to the film's ultimate point, a suicide pact between Günther and Paul, in which they promise to kill themselves when they no longer love. Smart move, teens: Günther is dead before the opening credits, and Paul is in custody to tell exactly what happened. The story is Paul's narrative as he examines the last few days in the country: a binge drinking, sex marathon with the central trio and a dozen or so friends.

Love in Thoughts is moody and well-made, and even though we know Günther will end up dead, we're not sure until the end who pulled the trigger and why. Directed by Achim von Borries (Good bye, Lenin!), the film is the work of a craftsman who obviously cares about the topic and his subjects, even if their pseudo-philosophies are juvenile and untenable. More to the point, we keep wanting Paul -- the only character her with a shred of sense -- to break away from the clan of phonies and the shallow Hilde, but he just never wises up.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make a tragedy.

Aka Was nützt die Liebe in Gedanken.


Love in Thoughts Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 2004


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