In the pre-war Austro-Hungarian empire, Törless arrives as a new pupil at the elite boarding school “Prinz Eugen” in what is today Austria. When classmate Basini is caught stealing, Törless passively observes while two other classmates “punish” the thief. The two use sadistic rituals to torture and humiliate their victim while deriding him as their spineless submissive. Not until the two boys deliver Basini into the hands of a mob of agitated schoolmates does Törless publicly distance himself … Adapted from the novel by Robert Musil about the violent creation of “the fealty of blind obedience”, the film was clearly intended – and perceived – as a parable of the Nazi dictatorship and the moral failures of its followers. At the same time, the sparse period sets and Volker Schlöndorff’s direction, learned working on French films, ensured an explosive topicality to the character deformation of the protagonists as a result of a society formed in authoritarianism. Der junge Törless won the critic’s prize at Cannes, where the German cultural attaché conspicuously distanced himself from the film by walking out of the screening.