Parasol Peccadillo specialise in quality world cinema releases, and have a particularly strong reputation for releasing gay-oriented 'art house' movies on DVD, so you could be forgiven for assuming this is another 'of interest to gays only' release, an assumption encouraged by the rather silly homo-erotic cover sleeve that totally misrepresents the film in this viewer's opinion.
Love in Thoughts centres around 'straight' poet Paul (played beautifully by Daniel Bruhl before the acne so evident in his performance as a German leader in Joyeux Noel exploded across his face) and the fragile relationships that fell apart at a weekend party in 1927. Paul is still a virgin and madly in love with his best friend's sister. Admittedly this best friend, Guenther, is gay, but the two are comfortable with each other's sexuality and there's no hint of anything that might frighten the horses going on between them. The same could be said of the film itself which, despite revolving around the events at a party where sex, booze and absinthe play the major role, manages to remain free of the sort of gratuitous scenes that independent film-makers seem to think obligatory to make the film seem more 'real'. Those of a nervous disposition about this sort of thing can rest assured that although there is some (boy on girl) nudity, the whole thing is more Merchant Ivory than the sort of soft homo-erotic porn that can often get mis-advertised as 'world cinema with a gay theme'.
The film opens with Paul being interrogated about two deaths at a recent party before going on to tell the main story leading up to the events at that party. As such it's clear from the start this is a story that is not going to have an entirely happy ending, and there's a sense of melancholy permeating every frame. Essentially this is a story that centres on the criss-crossing relationships between Paul and his sister, Hilde, euphamistically referred to as a 'free spirit' throughout the film, but who would perhaps more accurately be described as 'slutty'. Hilde toys with Paul's affections, while her best friend, Elli, a more plain, but good-hearted girl who is infatuated with Paul and has been for some time, has to make do with the few crumbs she is thrown when Paul feels rejected. Things get complicated when it becomes clear that Guenther's sister is actually having a fling with Guenther's ex-boyfriend, Hans. Guenther is still in love with the bi-sexual Hans and when he gatecrashes a four day party that has been built around booze and drugs, the end results can only be catastrophic.
The film won't be to everyone's taste - it takes time to build up to the party and to plant the seeds of 'The Suicide Club' that will provide the film with the climax that is hinted at in the opening scenes. Characters are given time to be properly set up, and the emphasis is on using the camera rather than dialogue to show the emotions that are bubbling below the surface of all the players. But for this viewer, it was a wonderful evocation of a time, place and series of emotions that have only really been successfully portrayed in novels up to now. It comes as a surprise to learn at the end of the film that the story is based on real events, rather than the over-intellectualising of some would-be poet rewriting the adolescent experiences of his youth.
Director Achim von Borries tells his story well, albeit at a speed that may be considered a little sophorific for some, and wisely concentrates on getting the best performances from an excellent cast, rather than getting carried away with clever camera moves, or flashy 'meaningful' shots. This is difficult material to present cinematographically, but Borries captures it very well, and if you're not moved by the story he has to tell you must have a heart of stone.
The film is presented in its original German with subtitles and although the transfer is flawless (no speckles or dust) the original material is very clearly 'low budget art house. In terms of extra's there's nothing at all other than the same rather tired trailers that decorate other Parasol Peccadillo releases. Although this tends to be the normal fare for low-budget world cinema releases, it's unusual not to even have the usual snatched 'director filmed at the distribution companies headquarters' interview that usually accompanies these DVDs.
Love in Thoughts is a beautifully acted, sensibly-paced, slightly melancholic story about love and passion that comes highly recommended, although more as a rental than a purchase. Daniel Bruhl's performance alone is worth the price of admission.