Wahlverwandschaften, Der Leiden des Jungen Werthers, Lotte in Weimar, or, in English, Selective Affinities (Goethe), The Sorrows of Young Werther (Goethe), and Lotte in Weimar (Thomas Mann), or, The Beloved Returns.
This series is produced by DeFa, an Eastern German film studio, on a limited budget, yet still maintains a significant quality with good acting in the production. I will not review each film separately, but only mention that German reviewers on Amazon.de tended to be somewhat unkind, especially with Der Leiden des Jungen Werthers for not portraying the Goethe book accurately. I simply could not address that issue. In Der Leiden, young Werther is unfulfilled in his love for Charolotte, and eventually commits suicide over this. It is reportedly based on the unrequited love that Goethe had for a young lady in Frankfurt where he grew up. Lotte in Weimar is included in the series, since it is a depiction by Thomas Mann of the hypothetical reunion of Lotte and Goethe in Weimar, after both were much older. Wahlverwandschaften is the story of love intrigue during the Napoleonic Wars, when a young noble couple is visited by a young relative of the wife, to which the husband falls in love. My wife and I engaged in conversations over these movies, comparing these films to those depicting the novels of Jane Austen. My sense is that Goethe possesses a much greater mastery of the depiction of the human condition, like Shakespeare than Austen. Jane Austen tends to paint fanciful novels, that while portraying a strong sense of early Victorian morality of love and courtship, paints that picture in a surreal, and fictitious environment of wealthy landed Gentry who spend their lives at sport, in an England that Englanders would like to believe existed but never did. Goethe (and Thomas Mann) gives one more of the true blood and guts of human existence, in a background that is more tragic but also more closely approximating reality than one would ever find in the Austen stories. Goethe never attempts to bypass morality, and, in Wahlverwandschaften, still leaves the complexity of moral issues seeking resolution with moral implications. Goethe remains heavily neglected by American schools, a travesty that is our loss.