Somehow, the somewhat pompous title of this movie fits the plot again. It sounds like math and logic, like cybernetics or systems theory, yet it is about someone who constantly tells his fellow man something about horses. An axiom is a statement that should be taken as true without the need for proof. A prerequisite that does not have any prerequisites in itself. It does not follow that it has to be untrue, but in the described function for what follows it, the axiom resembles a lie. The lie is also the basis on which the construct is made. The story of a gossiper who tells about experiences that he never had and which then must fit into the picture he has created without contradiction.
But this movie is far from making fun of its main character. This distinguishes it from satirical dramas such as Confessions of a Scammer Felix Krull (1957), The Stupid Orator (1997) or The Informer! (2009). He also does not fall into the genre of a thriller in which the liar becomes a cheat, as in “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999) or “Cassandra’s Dream” (2007). And even the characterful drama “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) almost completely dissolves the complex of lies in a captivating crime plot, similar to Twain’s adaptation of His Biggest Bluff (1954), in which social experiment is foreground and psychology hardly plays a role. no role. On the other hand, in the case of Aksjom we are dealing with a real character study – what matters here is the person, not the plot.
Julius (Moritz Treuenfels) works as an overseer at an art museum. He enjoys popularity among his colleagues, always engages them in conversations with grace and sympathy, seems to draw on an inexhaustible arsenal of anecdotes and observations.
One weekend, he invites his colleagues on a cruise on a luxury sailing ship that is said to belong to his noble and wealthy parents, whom he often talked about. Along the way, seemingly by accident, there are several incidents that ultimately make it impossible to sail. While the friends are still wondering, the viewer already realizes at this point that Julius has a tense relationship with the truth. Due to his windy demeanor, he is also in the position of an outsider in the apartment where he lives and in his family. After an unsuccessful sailing weekend, Julius breaks off contacts with his friends and quits his job at the museum. He never told his girlfriend Marie (Ricarda Seifried) about the job anyway. She considers him a successful architect.
Anyone who can’t stand the bullying well is definitely in a bad movie. Axiom knows how to stress the viewer in a way that hits so hard that the stress creeps in subtly, at an inexorably slow pace, delaying an oncoming explosion. You look in vain for pretentious camera effects or even film music, the effect comes only from language, gestures and facial expressions.
Moritz Treuenfels provides great things. How tired he looks as Julius, how he is never relaxed and always under pressure to fill another gap with a white lie, how his eyes betray sadness and his voice joyfully embellishes an anecdote. Why is he putting himself under this stress, why does he keep telling stories that he ends up stumbling about? Something is forcing him to do it. But is it the feeling of not being sufficient, or is it really the inner void that his eyes sometimes suggest, prompting him to absorb the experiences and knowledge of others and pass them on as his own? As a viewer who naturally connects to the main character, however strange, you don’t ask yourself that question, but you suffer.
However, the great performance of the main actor would have been played to the wind, had it not taken place in a carefully planned action in which even a sentence does not seem superfluous. Timing is so important here because none of the characters involved openly claim that Julius is a liar. The elephant is in the room till the end, always being alluded to or picked up during the side show. Therefore, the viewer has to put together the truth about this lie piece by piece, conveyed through spectacular adventures.
As meticulously as Julius builds his stories, the film builds its story about Julius. Because technically lies and the truth aren’t that different. They both have to agree on the back – what separates them is a premise, an axiom. What speaks in favor of this film, however, is that it does not fall into the postmodern trap of sinking reality into a multitude of perspectives, or into the mysterious one, in which the viewer is no longer able to distinguish between what was truth and what was imagination. Such antics would reduce the height of the protagonist’s fall and use dramatic effects instead of content.
This way you can see that lying is hard work. Anyone can make a false claim to the world. The second one too. But everything that has been said must be true afterwards, any subsequent lie must match the stories that have already been told. How difficult it is to consistently integrate randomly added information into a whole is well known, not least from the movie world, where even clever authors tend not to add consistent prequels or spin-offs to an existing series. In the case of a liar, this is all the more difficult as he must also remember to whom and what he said. Or from whom he heard from what.
However, the coincidence of lies and the truth can also be understood in a practical sense: according to director JONS Jönsson, “Pretend Until You Do It” was the guiding principle of the film. In which he does not appear literally, but devotes a separate scene to him. Julius’s colleague Erik tells how he became religious. He long imitated the behavior of the priest he admired until the liturgy led to faith. “Kneel, move your lips in prayer and you will believe,” Pascal had written centuries earlier (at least if you believe Louis Althusser).
The appeal of the film is that it does not hit its character in the pan. As absurdly strange how this Julius goes through life, he does it with talent. Storytelling must also be skillful, even an anecdote that has been stolen must be designed to catch fire. This is perhaps the saddest place of all. While this storyteller quickly exhausted his friends’ patience in daily life, he would be loved in other areas for this trait. Who is the actor, who is the storyteller, if not a liar who cannot be angry with?
»Axiom«: Germany 2022. Director and screenplay: Jöns Jönsson. From: Moritz Treuenfels, Ricarda Seifried, Thomas Schubert. 112 minutes. Now in theaters.