This is the first movie review I am writing in my life. I am writing it because none of the reviews I read (after watching the film) seem to grasp the primal emotions the movie conveyed for me. I feel so weird about this. I actually have the impression some of the reviewers are not able to feel the abyssal anti-pedagogic methods in all their bleakness and brutality. Could it be that they simply are not able to open themselves for this sort of raw, unprocessed emotion?
This movie caught me completely unprepared, and may be that's why it left such an impact on me. I just switched on the TV and the movie popped up, showing the scene where Wolfgang, the protagonist, is standing around naked with his clothing in his hands. Now I am expecting to hear the screams of Wolfgang in my head for days.
Most people seem to criticize two things: 1.) The predictable story-line. 2.) The exaggerated portrayal of the life at Freistatt.
As to 1.) Yes. It is predictable at times. I only needed few seconds to recognize the direction the movie was gonna lead to. However, when Wolfgang was buried alive, I was shocked. I didn't think he'd survive (spoiler: he did so because it was a planned action, he got un-buried before he suffocated). I also liked the ending. It was not a happy ending, it was not a cruel ending, it was a right ending. What Wolfgang experienced was too cruel to not traumatize him. At the end he was free, but I could tell that he would never be able to lead a normal life.
As to 2.) I don't know how much the movie sticks to the actual events, or whether or not it does them justice. (I am also wondering: How much do the other reviewers know about this? Have they been there? If not, which knowledge enables them to make a judgment like that?) I don't have the feeling that this is what the movie is about anyway. Not at a single point the movie felt like a historic documentation to me, but like a story about a boy with an instinct for freedom, fighting against an oppressive system. At points, it almost felt like a miniature 1984 to me, especially regarding the circumstance that Wolfgang's drive for freedom was finally broken - after his mother let him down and he got buried alive. Nevertheless he made the right decision and didn't return to his mother at the end.
This is not a movie to analyze and think about much. It's a movie to feel and connect with your instincts. Reviewers who filter it by looking at it through their abstract glasses are missing its essence. And I feel inclined to suspect they don't have a healthy connection to their primal instincts themselves. I know one should avoid becoming personal, but I just can't say otherwise.
Much respect to Louis Hofmann, who did a splendid job as Wolfgang.