At some point he decided that rational thinking was over, Julius tells the artist, who is inspecting his rickety room in a shared flat. With the intention of sharpening his intuition, he went to libraries, for example, and just let himself drift there without a concrete idea. “I wanted to find a way of thinking in myself that doesn’t go from A to Z and where certain truths still crystallize, which somehow have their justification.” His down-to-earth interlocutor is visibly impressed. After all, the late 20-year-old speaks of a phase he had at 13. Or maybe better: wants to have had. At least at this moment. Like the great scholarship in Tokyo, which he gives as the reason for his upcoming move.
Like so much else in Jöns Jönsson’s “Axiom”, the early youthful philosophical drive is a story. Julius (Moritz von Treuenfels) describes himself with the image of the boy who drifts through the library and the knowledge it contains, perhaps even approximately truthfully. When he is seen at work as a museum attendant at the beginning of the film, he repeatedly disappears behind walls, only to suddenly appear out of nowhere and enter the picture as the protagonist.
The snippets of conversation between the exhibition guide and the visitors are so loud that you can clearly hear every word. Shortly thereafter, on the tram, he overhears a crazy story about aquariums and exotic fish, which he passes on at the next opportunity as having experienced it himself. Just like the one about the naked man at the crossroads.
With the image of the axiom – a theoretical principle that requires no proof – Jönsson, who studied at the Konrad Wolf film school, tells the story of a man who switches between identities and social roles depending on the “requirement”. Julius lets himself be carried away by the experiences of the others, he absorbs them until they flow out of him as his own narrative material. This is how he makes himself interesting for himself and others.
You never really make sense of the protagonist Julius
However, no “real” life can be built on dazzling stories alone – and so Julius sometimes feels carried away by risky arguments. Once he invites the faculty to a sailing trip on his noble family’s boat. Even the way there is full of hurdles: Instead of parking directly at the lake, the group trudges through a forest with backpacks and a full beer crate. The life jackets, which to the dismay of the host nobody had thought to bring, still have to be bought. He was dawdling around in the store for ages when he suddenly had an epileptic fit. The trip, which has already been postponed several times, cannot take place again.
You soon figure out what’s going on – wrapping up the other person, redirecting the conversation when doubts arise – and yet you can never make sense of Julius. Surprisingly, for example, the aspiring opera singer Marie (Ricarda Seifried, “Wintermärchen”), about whom he tells his (absolutely ignoble) mother, actually exists. But for her he plays the successful architect who has just received a coveted assignment.
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At dinner with her middle-class parents, the aura of the extraordinary is more important to him than a smooth facade: he portrays himself as the son of drug-addicted parents who didn’t have the privilege of growing up with culture. But the others also play roles and produce themselves. A critique of social theater and its expectations of adjustment resonates, without Jönsson sharpening these theses. The Swedish director keeps the meanings in limbo: there is a long conversation about religion and the opera that demands a very different form of truth and credibility.
While Julius occasionally witnesses the stress his lies create, the film doesn’t attempt to explore him psychologically; an amateur diagnosis trained on impostor stories would be: narcissistic personality disorder. Rather, it is characterized by the tension between presence and absence. Repeatedly, Julius is literally surrounded by off-screen conversations, once he disappears completely from the picture and the camera follows a pine cone floating in the stream for a long time. Sometimes he suddenly collapses. On the other hand, when the liar pretends to be something of himself, he comes across as alive and whole.