I read once that Eli Roth shot to aim for the dark side of humanity when he wrote Hostel; an exploration of the corners of our minds that are painted red, so to speak. It’s a damn shame that that film didn’t take any cues from the far superior Young Torless. Sickness, hostility, sadism, depravity — these are only a few of the things you will encounter as you spin the 1966 film.
Thomas Torless (Mathieu Carrière) has just entered a military boarding school during the pre-war Austro-Hungarian Empire. During his time there, he makes friends with Beineberg (Bernd Tischer) and Reiting (Fred Dietz), two ruffians that have a taste for adventure and atrocity, namely when it comes to the weaker and smaller Anselm von Basini (Marian Seidowsky). When Basini starts owing money to Beineberg and Reiting, they make no hesitation in making Basini their guinea pig for their sick fascinations, all while drawing in Torless.
The dark side of humanity is really brought out in Young Torless, better than I ever imagine it being in any other film, especially Hostel. Beineberg and Reiting are astounding villains in the most brutal sense. Their sadism is what makes the film sometimes difficult to watch but at the same time makes it all the better. The character Torless does a great job at walking the fine line of villain and hero. While he appears to have an interest in Beineberg and Reiting, he also occasionally wants to help Basini, but not in a way that could define him wholly as a hero. The real beauty is how Torless really dances along the moral divide.
The plot isn’t that rich. While Young Torless has an amazing human element to it, there isn’t much that goes beyond that. Everything that happens is driven by characters, which is beautiful, but past that, on paper, there isn’t any sort of outline. The best way I could describe the film is “experimental,” and I mean that in a good way.
Young Torless succeeds in a subject that most movies would fail in, and that is all the more reason to give it praise. The exploration of not only humanity but male nature is something to gawk at, especially during Barbara Steele’s guest appearance. Pick up Young Torless if you’ve got a hankering for a dark, humanistic experience.