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Germany in the 1970s: Murderous bomb attacks, the threat of terrorism and the fear of the enemy inside are rocking the very foundations of the yet fragile German democracy. The radicalised children of the Nazi generation lead by Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin are fighting a violent war against what they perceive as the new face of fascism: American imperialism supported by the German establishment, many of whom have a Nazi past. Their aim is to create a more human society but by employing inhuman means they not only spread terror and bloodshed, they also lose their own humanity. The man who understands them is also their hunter: the head of the German police force Horst Herold. And while he succeeds in his relentless pursuit of the young terrorists, he knows he's only dealing with the tip of the iceberg. Written by
I watched the movie at a teacher's screening in Wuppertal on a Sunday morning. I was quite impressed with the accurate and detailed portrayal of the RAF and the events of the so called 'German fall' (Deutscher Herbst). I myself knew of many of the events beforehand and thanks to documentaries such as Veiel's Black Box BRD and Breloer's Todesspiel I was able to compare. For the two and some hours that the movie lasted I was on the edge of my seat. None of the scenes were boring, everything was well paced (at times maybe a little too fast paced) and I felt like I was being taken back to the important past of my native country. However, at the end I felt a little empty. The documentaries I just mentioned focused on only one story, but these documentaries were better because they gave us an in-depth analysis of the opposing forces (the bourgeoisie, the elite and the socialist rebels).
The portrayal of Meinhof and Baader seems accurate, too, but often I wondered if Baader really was the small-time crook he's made out to be in the movie. Except for Meinhof and Ensslin nobody seems to have some really deep thoughts about what was (is) wrong with our society. Mohnhaupt played by Nadja Uhl isn't explained at all, she's just there all of a sudden and we just go along thinking that she is in it for the same reasons as everybody else (Which are???).That way the movie seemed a little biased, as if trying to tell us that the RAF was mainly criminal and not so much political. Although I believe that a lot of their motives were right, even though they didn't justify any of the actions.
Bruno Ganz as Herold is allowed to play his character in a way that everyone thinks of the German government at the time as a dignified and moderate administration although I don't believe that to be true (after all, Herold said that he can only cure the symptoms of the RAF disease but not the disease itself, yet he didn't do anything to make the German people understand that the RAF is not altogether wrong when it accuses the German people of laziness, cowardice and complacency).
Now, leaving the movie, I figured that there was nothing much left to talk about. The teacher material that we received was pretty useless, because it doesn't offer any interesting topics for discussion. I for one think it would be interesting to discuss the present situation (bureaucracy, war in Iraq, terrorism) with the situation of Germany in the 70's. We are still dealing with many of the problems that caused the insurgency and civil disobedience back then, yet today we don't do anything at all. We are dissatisfied with the Bush administration, we oppose the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we suffer from a financial crisis mainly caused by the deregulated free market economy (capitalism) and we watch the divide between the rich and the poor getting bigger and bigger.
However, the youth of today doesn't protest. Why not? Maybe because we taught them well that in the end it's everyone for themselves and that it's best to be obedient, docile and commonorgarden if you want at least a little security in your life. One of the stronger scenes was the one where Ensslin accuses Meinhof of jerking off on her socialist theories instead of actually doing something. That's where you can see how Meinhof was influenced by the RAF. Finally she met some people who were willing to take action instead of just talking and philosophizing about a better world. This scene lends itself well to the follow-up scene in which Meinhof helps Baader to escape from prison. The jump from the window sill is a the same time a jump towards extremism.
Well, all in all, I think it's a good film to get people interested in Germany's past but it can only be the beginning of a more subtle analysis of what the RAF stood for and what it was trying to do.
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