Next screening is based on a classical novel by Johann W. von Goethe, adapted and produced by the DEFA, Gruppe Roter Kreis, from the former GDR (East Germany)

(1974, 102 min., dir. Siegfried Kuehn, starring Hilmar Thate, Magda Vasary, English subtitles)
DATE: 31 October 2011
TIME: 5.00 p.m.
VENUE: Howard College, MTB West Wing, 1st Floor, German Programme, Media Room F251
About the film:

Elective Affinities (German: Die Wahlverwandtschaften), also translated under the title Kindred by Choice, is the third novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, published in 1809. The title is taken from a scientific term once used to describe the tendency of chemical species to combine with certain substances or species in preference to others. The novel is based on the metaphor of human passions being governed or regulated by the laws of chemical affinity, and examines whether or not the science and laws of chemistry undermine or uphold the institution of marriage, as well as other human social relations.


The book is situated around the city of Weimar. Goethe’s main characters are Eduard and Charlotte, an aristocratic couple both in their second marriage, enjoying an idyllic but semi-dull life on the grounds of their rural estate. They invite the Captain, Eduard’s childhood friend, and Ottilie, the beautiful, orphaned, coming-of-age niece of Charlotte, to live with them. The decision to invite Ottilie and the Captain is described as an “experiment” and this is exactly what it is. The house and its surrounding gardens are described as “a chemical retort in which the human elements are brought together for the reader to observe the resulting reaction.”


From the time of its publication to today, Goethe’s novel (published 1809), has aroused a storm of interpretive confusion. Readers fiercely debate the role of the chemical theory of elective affinities presented in the novel. Some argue that it suggest a philosophy of nature that is rooted in fate. Others maintain that it is about free choice. Others believe that the chemical theory is merely a structural device that allows the author to foreshadow events in the novel and bears no relevance to the greater issues of the novel.


This adaptation of Goethe’s novel stars Beata Tyszkiewicz, Hilmar Thate and Magda Vasary. Eduard and his wife Charlotte live in a somewhat rundown castle, Charlotte falls in love with her husband’s friend, while Eduard falls passionately in love with young Ottilie whom his wife has invited to stay at the castle. The story ends tragically.


Looking forward to seeing you there!


Dr. Marion Pape
University of KwaZulu-Natal
School of Language, Literature & Linguistics
German Programme
Durban, 4041

TEL: 031-260 1086/2380
FAX: 031-260 1242

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