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I'm sure there will be plenty of people that will accuse "The
edukators" of being such a cheap anti-capitalism manifest, a "cool"
product designed for rich boys who feel like making a revolution.
Whatever, nowadays we need idealism more than ever, we need to believe
in lost causes, we have to appeal to the dignity of the individual and
to spit in the riches' faces. "The Edukators" is one way of doing all
those things from the cinema screen by telling the story of three rebel
young guys that won't stay and look without doing a thing while the big
corporations destroy this world and turn us into working-hard zombies.
They have an idea: to assault mansions, mess everything up, to make
trouble just to scare the owners... not to steal, not to break things.
It is all about disconcerting. Obviously their "game" will soon get out
of hand, they'll get involved in a kidnapping, and they will bump into
something that's more powerful than revolution or ideals: love. Two
boys, one girl... that means TROUBLES.
As I said, we need more movies like this one that are so well made, and also tries to open people's eyes. (Unfortunatelly I'm sure that those who should get their eyes opened will never watch "The Edukators".
PS: It is worth to watch "The Edukators" even if it's just for the last minutes of the film, with Jeff Buckley singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallellujah" (that also proves the director's exquisite taste).
*My rate: 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A somewhat thin but likable film, "The Edukators" shows us a couple of
young German guys who are reborn Seventies terrorists reduced to
gesture. At night they break into rich people's houses and rearrange
the furniture leaving notes telling their victims they've got too much
money and had better watch out. ("The Days of Plenty Are Over" -- "Die
Fetten Jahre sind vorbei" -- goes the German film title.) They also go
to demos and forcibly leaflet shoe stores with warnings about child
labor, but their real thrills come in the break-ins: they're hooked on
the rush. One has a girlfriend who works at a snooty upscale restaurant
where customers and manager are equally abusive to her.
Things get messy when the other young man, Jan (Daniel Brühl) is prodded into an impulsive break-in with his friend's girl, Jule (Julie Jentsch). He's falling for her and reveals his secret lawbreaking to impress her. She insists on entering the house because it belongs to a man she owes 94,000 Euros to for totaling his Mercedes. This gesture's unplanned and the girl's inexperienced and they have to break back in the next night to find her cell phone. The owner returns while they're there and recognizes the girl. The three young people, Jule, Jan, and Peter (Stipe Erceg) feel that now they're "blown" they must kidnap the rich guy and take him to a cabin in the mountains, which of course they immediately do.
These are young revolutionaries after the fact. There are no longer any Bader-Meinhofs or Red Brigades to belong to. The paradox, a rather pat one, is that the guy they kidnap, Hardenberg (Burghart Klaussner), was a Sixties and Seventies revolutionary himself, who only slowly slid into the capitalist life. Needless to say the slide turned quite successful since he now earns over three million a year. But he claims to feel nostalgia for the old days and sympathy for his captors. Before long they're all happily playing cards and he's cooking for them and could probably escape sooner, if he weren't enjoying the forced vacation amid romantic reminders of the old days.
Things end surprisingly, but "The Edukators" isn't so much interested in its story as in existing as a platform for youthful critiques of capitalism and pondering the old saw -- which Hardenberg comes up with eventually, Anyone under thirty who isn't liberal has no heart; anyone over thirty who isn't conservative has no mind. The youths are exuberant and naive. Hormones are raging, so, typically, the love triangle almost takes over the politics. Their prisoner is smarter than they are, but what sustains the over-long second half is that his sympathy for his kidnappers doesn't seem fake, just as his story doesn't seem contrived. Or rather, only a little fake and a little contrived.
This is a film that musters some good suspense and adrenalin rushes at first, but starts losing them as the kidnapping wears on because it all begins to seem more about politics and the talk than about the action, though wondering how it's going to end is still what's going to keep you watching. That such a dichotomy should appear -- politics vs. action -- is an irony of the piece. If you've got sympathy for the youthful rebellion or the critiques of capitalism -- or just want to debate the issues brought up -- the movie can hold your interest. The actors are all plausible and appealing, particularly Klaussner and the young but experienced Brühl, whose sweetness and exuberance motivated the 2003 East Berlin comedy, "Goodbye, Lenin." The jerky digital video comes with the territory, though it may some day become as dated as bell-bottoms. The filmmakers could have edited this down to less than two hours and four minutes and given the story harder edges. The music is loud and integral to the youthful portraits.
The first review I read of this movie criticized the camera work. I
wonder why? For an indie production, this was a surprisingly high
quality film and nowhere near as jerky as, say, Cloverfield. If you
tend towards sea-sickness and have been avoiding watching this film for
that reason then rest assured that there is no need to bring a sick bag
to the viewing.
Having said that, I found the Edukators to be a well developed character drama that pulled the carpet out from under my feet just when it started to get too comfortable. The three central, activist characters have perfect amount of cynicism, idealism and vulnerability. Their views never came across as preachy, merely pragmatic. But then I'm left wing, so I guess I would say that - however, the 'other side of the story' gets a chance to be heard in the form of Mr. Hardenberg. As a child of a baby boomer I found him to be a familiar character, full of his generation's mournful sense of complicity in corruption. The only complaint i had is that the action drags a bit towards the end, but this is compensated for by the clever twist at the ending.
It's hard to find a story out there that actually contributes emotional depth to the 'capitalist vs. socialist' debate instead of focusing on rhetoric. That's why I am thankful to the makers of this film for contributing such a solid story to the mix. I would definitely recommend it to any activist friends who want to think beyond the next demo and/or leafletting session.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having read all the comments before I would just like to reinforce that
the film is about innocence and idealism. I don't think the director
really is doing "propaganda" for leftist ideas or revolutions. The
"leftie" characters were aptly shown as naive and even outright dumb.
The capitalist wasn't a monster or inhuman either.
I don't think the "alternative" end explanation for Hardenberg being an accomplice makes any sense. He obviously remains "establishment". The message on the wall is clearly for him. In the end I was saddened that Hardenberg didn't have some empathy or learn a bit himself. I think he really was once a SDS member and a revolutionary himself, though naturally he played it up a bit to save his skin.
It also shows that life and the system eventually get us all. We end up boring and all about conformity. Our youthful rebellion becoming a comfortable obedience. We just want our paychecks and suburban homes.
Its also sad to read so many commentaries about "lefty" film... the film is so much more than just the politics in it.
I was really ashamed of being German when I saw this movie (which got so many awards). The characters are so ridiculous that I first thought it was a comedy. Unti the very end I was expecting a major twist in the story because I could not imagine that a such highly decorated film has such shallow characters and such a lame and predictable story. For me this movie could not be recommended to adults because of the childishness of the characters and not to kids because of the dubious political message. That is something like socialism in Disneyland. The story is full of clichés , e.g. the scene in the restaurant with the snobbish guests. All rich people are evil and the poor ones are nice, idealistic and want to become teachers. Absurd and simply wrong is the way Jule got to her outstanding debt by crashing the rich mans' car without being covered by insurance. You simply cannot incur debts that high as a private person because there is a law in Germany against that to protect people from ruining themselves in the long run ("Privatinsolvenzrecht"). Therefore the whole "argumentation" and plot is impossible. The only good thing about that crap (pardon my French) is the shooting of the Alp scenery.
"The Edukators (Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei)" should be adopted as the
movie of the "Summer of Live8," with almost as good a soundtrack.
It is a wonderful illustration of how all politics is personal -- as one character quotes, "every heart is a revolutionary cell" and compares the hormonal rush from political action to love.
Helped enormously by an appealing cast who perfectly capture the ebullience, exuberance and idealism of twentysomethings, director/co-writer Hans Weingartner brings to life an intelligent film about politics that is also very funny and wonderfully romantic. Just when any character starts slipping into rhetoric in their thoughtful, pointed debates, their conversations suddenly turn on double meanings for their personal lives. Dialectics quickly turns to longing gazes as these are sweet revolutionaries who are irrepressibly human.
As probably middle-class products of democracy who want to influence voters for change, they are much more Yippies than terrorists. They are more about what used to be called consciousness-raising, hence the original German title, as they warn rich capitalists "Your Days Of Plenty Are Numbered" and sign themselves "Erziehungsberechtigter," a mouthful which I understand translates more as "guardians" than the nevertheless evocative English title.
The first half of the film has a breathless New Wave feel, and I'm sure it's not a coincidence that one character is named "Jule" as the "Jules et Jim" triangle is a driving plot point. There's an amusing pattern of repeated visuals that change meanings as we see who is now next to whom, who is asleep and who is awake.
Her boyfriend "Peter" is just the kind of seductive guy, played by a leonine Stipe Erceg, who brings her a present of a sexy camisole and thinks she just needs bright colors in her frustrating life. So how can she help but be surprised that his Angry Young Man best friend and "weird" roommate "Jan" can really talk to her.
Music is used marvelously throughout the film (even though covers of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" -no, it's not Jeff Buckley's version, it's Lucky Jim- have been way overused in films lately, the words actually are meaningful in a climactic scene here). Non-German speakers are otherwise at a real disadvantage both for having to tear your eyes away from the charismatic actors and because few of the lyrics are translated in the subtitles, though I presume one is translated because the nostalgic lyrics for a pastoral past gain ironic resonance when the threesome ends up in a soothing sylvan Tyrollean landscape. But we can pick up that the guys play loud, aggressive music in very expressive mano a mano camaraderie throughout and the chick plays a romantic-sounding singer, Jeff Cole. So we can also be surprised when "Jan" admits to having gone to the same concert she did.
While Daniel Brühl was charming in "Goodbye, Lenin" and sweet in "Ladies in Lavender," as "Jan" he's a heartbreaking movie star. The camera simply falls in love with him, too, in frequent close-ups, and wet opportunities to take his shirt off, as he puts poignancy into every look, even a furtive, frustrated glance in a rear-view mirror.
Just when a baby boomer is feeling nostalgic watching these kids, the film makes the connection with the '60's explicit as it very amusingly crosses "The Big Chill" with "Ruthless People." There are at least two lines from these comparisons that are very laugh out loud funny, while making points about the 1968 of protests, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Somehow I had previously missed the generation gap truism: "If you're not liberal when you're under 30, you have no heart. If you're liberal after 30, you have no brain."
The conclusion goes in very surprising twists on bourgeois ethics that leave some questions about who chose to do what to whom when and who is now "a good liar." So it is frustrating to learn on the IMDb message boards that the director went back and added a clarifying scene that is only being shown in Germany. I can only hope international audiences will at least get to see it on the DVD.
It is refreshing to see a German political film where the context is Europe within capitalist globalism, though there are a couple of frissons of recall to the unavoidable past, as when the rich capitalist they debate comes very close to saying he's just following orders in how he's just followed the system. The subtitles translated one of his points as perilously sounding like "Work will make you free" but I don't know if he actually said "Arbeit macht frei" in the German. I presume the number of English words that have casually become part of their lexicon is also symbolic of globalization.
How wonderful that a new generation of activists, at least through this film, has a sense of humor. This film restores one's faith that youth is not in fact wasted on the young.
High quality script, acting and direction combine to make a
high-quality picture, which only flags a bit in its later part.
Three younger adults are against the system, which they view as state-supported or crony capitalism (not to be confused with anarcho-capitalism or free market capitalism) in which the state enforces legislative enactments that effectively enslave. The two men are already involved as "The Edukators". They break into supposedly secure villas and homes of rich fat cats and disquiet them by rearranging their belongings and leaving such messages as "Your fat days are over". Julia Jentsch, the girl friend of one (Erceg) and later the lover of the other (Bruhl), gets drawn into and joins this game when her huge debts owed to a rich guy whose car she wrecked overwhelm her and Bruhl alters her thinking about this enslaving debt away from bourgeois ethics and toward a justice less hinged on property rights.
The story already has suspense in the break-ins and the shifting love of Jentsch, but it goes into even higher gear when they find themselves having to kidnap a rich guy, Burghart Klaussner, another very fine actor. The script then explores their predicament, because kidnapping is so much more serious than any of their other property pranks and they are non-violent people. It also explores the background of Klaussner, the system, and the opposing ideas, giving each a fair hearing.
Altogether this is a literate script with realistic characters and situations. People are true to themselves. The portrayals are flawless. The characters engage our sympathies.
The movie makes one deeper thematic point, which is that the existing system is suppressing too many people or producing too many unhappy people, and that this is producing a revolutionary potential. The direction of that potential is unknown. Revolutions are typically not known to produce predictable results that improve matters. The movie doesn't pretend to give us the key to unlock the puzzle of how to improve the social/political outcomes. The three revolutionaries are at an earlier stage, which is one of making "statements" that somehow educate and transform the thinking of the unhappy, or so they think, masses. How this process will proceed and what it will or might produce are not the movie's concern, but this is the underlying question that is raised.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As this film opens we see a family returning to their large and
obviously expensive house; something is wrong though; all their
possessions have been rearranged; nothing has been stolen though and a
note has been left which states 'the days of plenty are over'; clearly
whoever broke wanted to make a statement. We soon learn that the people
who did it were two young radicals named Jan and Peter. Peter's
girlfriend Jule knows nothing about these events until she tells Jan
how she is almost 100,000 in debt because she crashed into a
businessman's Mercedes while uninsured; Jan then tells her what he and
Peter get up to. They are not far from where the businessman lives so
Jule suggests they go and look at his house; when there is nobody home
she suggests he should be the next victim and they do it there and
then; rearranging items and even throwing a couch in the pool... Jule
thinks it was great fun... until she realises she dropped her phone
there! The two of them return but while they are searching Herr
Hardenberg, the businessman, returns. Not knowing what to do they call
Peter and the three of them kidnap Hardenberg and head to a remote
alpine cottage. Here they discuss what they should do with Hardenberg;
they also learn that he wasn't always a wealthy capitalist; once he was
a radical just like them... but does that mean they can trust him when
he says he won't report them to the police?
When I started watching this film I wasn't sure what to expect; I knew it involved a kidnapping but had no idea how it would end; shortly after they got to their scenic hideaway I had a very good idea how it would all end... but it didn't! While the politics does seem rather heavy handed at times, we are clearly meant to sympathise with the trio, it doesn't spoil the film and much of the politics of the trio can be put down to their youthful naïveté. As well as looking at the morality of capitalism there is some sexual politics too as Hardenberg talks of his days of free love in the sixties but when he lets on that he knows Jule is involved with Jan it becomes clear that Peter is not happy with what he learns. While I don't speak German I thought the actors did a fine job keeping their characters believable in an extreme situation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Spoilers) This story of three young Berliners who have become angered
by the inequities of wealth distribution is perhaps more relevant now,
after the financial crisis of 2008, than when it was released in 2004,
since the excesses of the wealthy are now under scrutiny. There is more
here than a debate on the evils or merits of the wealthy. Woven into
the story is a love triangle between Jan, Jule, and Peter. The love
triangle subplot, depicting the complexities that arise when friendship
and love start to overlap, is believable and handled with skill. In
addition the film is part thriller.
The first part of the film that sets up the relationships between the three characters is a bit slow, but pays off as situations evolve. In fact I wish we had gotten more background on Jan and Peter to see how they wound up being so disaffected.
In the beginning Jule is doing what any good activist with her particular grudge would be doing--harassing customers in a shoe store for buying $100 sneakers that cost $5 to make, using cheap foreign labor. Jan and Peter are more serious in their activities by way of breaking into the estates of the wealthy, simply rearranging the rooms, and leaving mildly threatening notes behind (signed "The Educators") expressing their disdain for the excesses of the owners.
Initially the activities are just irritating or prankish, but things get serious when circumstances develop that have the three radicals somewhat unintentionally kidnapping a wealthy owner. They take their captive to Jule's uncle's isolated cabin in the mountains. Such a cabin in such a beautiful location would imply that Jule's uncle was well off, but the anarchists had no trouble availing themselves of this appurtenance of wealth when it was convenient.
What were they living on? None of them had a job, but they were running their van around, equipped with surveillance electronics. They wanted to close down a sneaker store, but where did they get their sneakers? If you are living in a capitalist society, then there is no way to extricate yourself from participating short of changing the system, and if that was their goal, then these young people had little idea of how to accomplish it.
I came away with feeling how naive and lacking in foresight the three "Educators" were. What was going to be the reaction of those whose houses had been rearranged? First they would call the police, then they would beef up the security of their mansions. So what had the gang of three accomplished? Precious little. I think you would have to classify these three as anarchists, since they seem to have no way of articulating their unformed anger other than by disruption. If they really were interested in the question of the disparity of wealth distribution they had not taken much time to think about what would be effective ways to address the problem. I saw their actions as counterproductive.
While at the cabin the anarchists and their hostage (known only as Hardenberg) loosened up a bit and had some interesting conversation on the topic of concern. But there again, the anarchists displayed a total lack of understanding by assuming that a capitalist economy is a zero-sum game--if Hardengerg is wealthy, then his wealth must have come at the expense of the less wealthy. In the verbal sparring between the young people and Hardenberg, I found that Hardenberg made more sense, even though he throws out the old canard that the opportunity to accomplish what he did is out there for everyone. That is simply not true in light of the statistic that the best predictor of one's financial success is the financial success of his or her parents. Instead of random attacks on wealthy individuals, working toward making Hardenberg's assertion more truthful might be a better approach for the three Educators.
I do believe that disparity of wealth is a problem that will ultimately result in class warfare if not addressed. This battle is already in its early stages in the United States as tax cuts are given to the wealthy at a time when the country is sliding toward bankruptcy. So, I feel that Hardenberg could bat down the arguments of the anarchists only because they were running primarily on emotion and had little to present by way of a coherent argument.
The ending left me with many questions. I could not figure out if Hardenberg was a master actor and manipulator, or whether he was telling the truth during his captivity about his activist past. Did Hardenberg identify with the anarchists to the point of funding their dream of disrupting communication satellites and shutting down all TV reception in Europe? The evidence for that would be that the Educators were given enough time to vacate their apartment and wind up at a hotel in Spain. If Hardenberg was going to come after them, would he not have done so shortly after being returned to the safety of his home? How could the Educators finance their trip to Spain without a backer? On the other hand the final sign on the wall, saying that no man ever changes, could be interpreted as directed at Hardenberg, implying that he had reverted to the tactics of a wealthy man used to getting his way. Or it could be interpreted as implying that at heart Hardenberg was an anarchist and had reverted to being that. But then again, if Hardenberg were an anarchist sympathizer, then why go through the charade of raiding the apartment? Or was that to convince anyone that he was not involved? A very ambiguous ending.
If the Educators were successful in their attempt to disrupt satellite communications, I don't see how that act would advance the cause of a more equitable distribution of wealth.
This film did not make me want to go out and picket my local shoe stores.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the 2 films i manage to catch during the German film fest w my friend is The Edukators, incidentally both films has this actor Daniel Bruhl in it. The Edukators started off w 3 young adults who are very involved in protesting for their rights and opposing capitalism in their country, trying their own ways to influence the country into listening to their voices. Other than protesting on the streets, the 2 guys have another way of showing their capability in influencing the society. By breaking into rich houses and re-arranging the furnitures without taking anything and leaving a note saying 'The Days of Plenty Are Over'. One of the couple are lovers to start off with and slowly the plot reveals that the other guy acted by Daniel likes the girl too and started to involve her into their nite activities which ended in a very awkward manner: The owner came back! During this part of the film, i was getting a little bit irritated already due to the girl's clumsiness and inability to heed instructions. Then i slowly realise that actually this is the point the plot starts to become really really interesting and will end w a simply great twist. Dun really wanna reveal too much of the ending but highly recommended to watch this film for reasons like the great Germany hillside sceneries (beautiful!), cute actors (ok, towards the end of the film, i switched from liking Daniel to really liking Stipe Erceg (the chiselled-chin guy)), funny funny one-liners, and of course a fantastic ending. Overall a great German film not to be missed!
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