Guter Junge (TV movie)
|Guter Junge (TV movie)|
|MPAA Rating (USA):||Unrated|
|Director:||Torsten C. Fischer|
|Starring:|| Sebastian Urzendowsky |
After his mother's death, 17-year-old Sven moves in with his dad Achim, a taxi driver, who had divorced his mother several years earlier. Achim's girlfriend Julia senses that something is different with Sven. Why does he not have any friends his own age? Why, she wonders, does he always hang around with young boys? 
"Love Life in the Fourth Reich" by Edmund Marlowe 
Two good-looking boys are flirting. Sven (Sebastian Urzendowsky) encourages Patrick (Sandro Lohmann) to try different poses before his camcorder. A laughing Patrick mischievously flashes his naked bottom at him and blows kisses. It is a charming scene full of laughter and youthful spontaneity. Surely only homophobic dinosaurs could object? But wait, I failed to mention that Sven is 17 and Patrick looks, horror of all horrors, only 13 or 14, an age gap about as grotesque as that between Romeo and his 13-year-old Juliet. Besides, this is the 21st century, not the barbarous Renaissance, and we are looking at this literally through the eyes of Sven’s father Achim (Klaus Behrendt), watching the scene recorded on his son’s camcorder, not through the eyes of the misguided or socially irresponsible bard. By this stage we have been left in no doubt that Achim is a genuinely loving parent, but as in other respects he is a quite ordinary, decent, modern bloke (a divorced taxi driver), he naturally cannot control his visceral disgust. “You disgusting, dirty pig!” he shouts as he punches his son hard in the face, leading the boy to attempt suicide.
Sven is adamant he loves Patrick and could never therefore hurt him. This failure to see things the correct way unsurprisingly infuriates his father. Achim, whose socially acceptable love life consisting of a failed marriage, a failing relationship and a visit to a prostitute, runs in interesting juxtaposition to Sven’s forbidden one, is certain enough of knowing what real love is to assure his son he knows nothing about it. Unfortunately, Sven is not convinced, possibly because Achim sees no need to offer a rational explanation for something so obvious, and asks his father to lock him up in his bedroom to stop him following his longings for younger boys. Only Achim’s girlfriend Julia realizes what Sven needs is “help”, in other words having his mind reprogrammed enough to understand that what he has experienced as impulses to love are really so unspeakably evil that he will no longer wish to act on them, and may thereby come to terms with an emotionally and sexually sterile life. But silly Achim won’t subscribe to the modern dogma of immutable orientation and clings with predictably tragic consequences to the belief his son can be changed.
There is one serious incongruity, which nearly derails this as a story with clear meaning. Almost the entire story of Sven’s love life concerns the clearly pubescent Patrick, who is not only encouraging rather than merely consenting, but even after his mother discovers enough of the truth to denounce Sven and Sven calls off their friendship, continues to pursue him to his home and to try to undermine his resolve with dazzling smiles and more blown kisses. And yet what actually seals Sven’s fate is picking up on a train and attempting to seduce a boy of ten who looks even younger and obviously uncomfortable. Though Achim warns Sven he could have gone to prison or a mental asylum for what he did with Patrick, had he actually done so, it would require looking at their story with myopically jaundice-tinted 21st-century glasses to see Sven rather than society as the abuser. The ten-year-old is a very different matter and out of character; it would take an exceptionally forgiving society to remember that all the little boy had to do when he did not like what Sven was up to was what he did, run away, so no serious harm was done. It is as if the script-writer realized at the last moment that what he had written looked dangerously discernible as an indictment of society rather than a look into the quandary of how to control Sven, so brought in the little-boy scene in a clumsy effort to restore the balance.
There was a time about halfway between the Third Reich and today when most Germans’ reactions to Sven’s feelings for Patrick would have been far more indulgent. Germany and other countries that had experienced National Socialist rule were then what were derisively known as permissive societies, which is to say they were taking deeply to heart the lessons from the generation before and flirting with freedom and toleration. Guter Junge illustrates how thoroughly these lessons have now been forgotten. Even as I write, the grandchildren of the Third Reich have whipped themselves up into such fury that they may not be able to send one of their M.P.s to prison for having pictures of naked boys innocently playing out of doors, once an everyday sight in the warmer parts of the world, that they are introducing new thought-crime laws to imprison anyone having pictures of even clothed children that in the imagination of their judges are felt to be erotic. I am sure Herr Hitler would be proud of them; without doubt it will help restore prison numbers to the impressive levels of his day.
Watching this film, it is much easier to understand how ordinary Germans could once have felt such effortless hatred and contempt for innocent Jews; it is a deeply chilling reminder of how easily people who believe in their own decency can be led into such a total lack of sympathy or understanding for those classed as “others” that they feel sure of seeing wrong where there is none. The Germans are of course far from being alone in this particular mania, but it is especially poignant in their case.
One thing I will say for modern Germany though is that in none of the three countries most responsible for ending the Third Reich would it be possible to produce a film for television nearly so honest and neutral on this subject. It is excellently acted by the main protagonists. The varied music is especially well chosen and holds the audience’s attention during the more meandering scenes of this good but very depressing story.