Young Goethe in Love

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Young Goethe in Love
Film poster
Directed byPhilipp Stölzl
Produced byChristoph Müller
Helge Sasse
Written byPhilipp Stölzl
Alexander Dydyna
Christoph Müller
StarringAlexander Fehling
Miriam Stein
Moritz Bleibtreu
Music byIngo L. Frenzel
CinematographyKolja Brandt
Edited bySven Budelmann
Seven Pictures
Distributed byWarner Bros. Film Productions Germany
Release date
  • 14 October 2010 (2010-10-14) (Germany)
Running time
102 minutes
Budget€3 million

Young Goethe in Love (originally titled Goethe!) is a 2010 German historical drama film directed by Philipp Stölzl and starring Alexander Fehling, Miriam Stein, and Moritz Bleibtreu. It is a fictionalized version of the early years of the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the events forming the basis of his novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.


At the University of Strasbourg in 1772, young Johann Wolfgang Goethe fails his doctoral examination in law and, despite wishing to be a poet, is sent by his father to work in the Reichskammergericht, the imperial law court in the small town of Wetzlar. Set to read old files by his grim chief Kestner, he is befriended by another junior, Wilhelm Jerusalem, who takes him to a dance.

There he sees Lotte Buff, daughter of a widower living in an old manor house outside the town, where she looks after her seven younger siblings. Developing a closer friendship with the attractive and lively young woman, one day he encounters her on a country road. A sudden rain storm forces the two to seek shelter in a ruined castle, where they make love.

Meanwhile Kestner has been negotiating with her father, who is delighted to see his impoverished family helped by the marriage of his eldest girl to a distinguished lawyer. Though not in the least charmed by Kestner, for the sake of the family Lotte reluctantly agrees he may marry her. Unaware of her relationship with Goethe and without mentioning her name, Kestner asks him to be best man. Goethe agrees heartily, and even suggests some good phrases he could use in his wedding.

Accepting Kestner out of duty, Lotte writes to Goethe to tell him their affair is at an end. Before he gets the letter, he sets out for her house with a present, only to find her engagement party in full swing. Returning despondent to his lodgings, he then sees his room-mate Jerusalem shoot himself in despair over his hopeless love for a married woman. After briefly contemplating suicide himself, he returns to work and publicly insults Kestner, who demands a duel. Given first shot he misses, whereupon Kestner fires wide and has him arrested for illegal duelling.

In jail, Goethe turns these events into a story he calls The Sorrows of Young Werther and sends the manuscript to Lotte as a farewell gift. She sees its qualities and, without telling him, takes it to a publisher. Once Goethe is released from prison, his father takes him home to Frankfurt, where the book has become a sensation and the young author a celebrity.

Historical accuracy[edit]

Some of the film is accurate biography, some is drawn from the novel and some is fictional. Though Goethe did not receive a doctorate, he did earn a licentiate which entitled him to practice, so he was not a failure at his legal studies. His relationship with Lotte was never more than platonic. He did not fight a duel with Kestner and therefore was not jailed for it.[1] On the contrary, Goethe had great respect for Kestner.


Director Philipp Stölzl & actor Alexander Fehling at the 2011 Miami International Film Festival showing of Young Goethe in Love


External links[edit]