sábado, 29 de mayo de 2010

The Baader Meinhof Complex

The Baader Meinhof Complex [Der Baader Meinhof Komplex] (MPI DVD, 2010)
Directed by Uli Edel
Germany, 2008

Whilst my Orbis Terrarum Film Mini-Challenge has been a spectacular bust up to this point, Uli Edel's high-energy, frenetic, and unmistakably adult The Baader Meinhof Complex (a 2009 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film) was just what I needed to turn the page on yesterday's young adult-induced entertainment woes.  Covering 10 years in the life of the German urban guerrilla terrorist organization variously known as the Baader Meinhof Complex or the Red Army Faction, Edel's politically-charged drama is at its most daring following the kidnappers, car bombers, and political assassins from their radical anarchist points of view.  Early on in the film, for example, it's all too easy to identify with the frustrated idealism of the youth who are so torn up over the American war in Vietnam and the return of Nazis to state office that they feel a moral obligation to fight the power structures in place.  As the film progresses, though, this humanization of the killers pays unexpected dividends when it becomes clear that some of them are aware that they've become just as evil as the forces of oppression that inspired their armed resistance in the first place.  In watching the scenes where the group leaders turn on each other like rats and squabble for power inside and outside of prison, I began to wonder whether the real-life "success" of the group owed itself more to Andreas Baader, the mercurial thug with an apparent cult of personality over his followers, or Ulrike Meinhof, the one-time theoretician of the group who was a well-regarded journalist before turning terrorist.  The film, based on Stefan Aust's well-regarded nonfiction piece, Baader-Meinhof: The Inside Story of the R.A.F., and including at least two shots attesting to the group members' reading of Moby-Dick as a call to arms against the state, wisely never says, a tribute to its questioning as opposed to didactic style of filmmaking.  Not the greatest movie ever and maybe a little too slick for its own good with the editing in spots but basically a fine piece of work overall with a hyper "journalism" sensibility that reminded me of David Fincher's 2007 Zodiac.  Well worth watching.  (http://www.mpihomevideo.com/)

German film poster spotlighting Martina Gedeck, one of my favorite actresses, as Ulrike Meinhof.

3 comentarios:

  1. The book is well worth reading, though the movie covers most its main points. I credit you with being able to still see their humanity at the end of the movie. I think I lost all patience and sympathy for them halfway through. Just what were they fighting for?

    I had the same problem with the book. At some point they all seemed to lose any sense of purpose other than to keep doing what they'd been doing.

    Still, both the film and the book are worthwhile.

  2. I'll never forget when I taught in Germany (the wall was still up then, separating the East from the West) and the Baader Meinhof Complex kept attacking American bases and schools. Our school, for the American military children, had two tanks set up in the playground...I'll never forget the seriousness of those machines in a place alledgedly for play. It was a whole new world for this girl.

  3. *C.B. James: I might not have expressed this point well, but I meant that it was easy to see the group members as humans (esp. the Meinhof character) rather than just demonized villains. I agree that, even early on, they weren't very sympathethic in many ways even without the reprehensible acts of violence to take into consideration. Interesting information about the book, thanks! I'm still pretty eager to read it, but I'll go into expecting some flaws ahead of time.

    *Bellezza: Wow, that's quite the anecdote! Can't imagine trying to teach in a situation like that. Don't know if this will sound strange to you or not given how vivid your memories of those years must be, but one of the actors or filmmakers of this movie claims that today's generation of German youth don't really know anything much about what happened in Germany in the '60s and '70s. In one of the special features on the DVD, he claimed that the Baader Meinhof years and the popular disaffection of the time were probably only second to the fall of the Berlin Wall in post-WWII Germany in terms of importance. How interesting that you lived through some of that!