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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
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Little more than a vanity project for Bernd Eichinger
Once every few years, Bernd Eichinger feels the need to prove to everybody that he has the biggest dick in the German film industry. In order to do this, he refrains from making cheap stupid international movies like "Resident Evil" and dumb German comedies and makes a big movie that he calls important. After "Der Untergang" and "Das Parfum" we now get "Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex".
One really wonders who this movie was made for. People who don't know anything about the RAF will not understand most of what is going on. People who know some stuff about this will only find the things that they already know and experts on the topic will be horrified about the simplifications and elisions.
The movie looks great, as it should be expected. It really looks like it is from the era. All technical aspects are wonderful, the cinematography, the action, sound, effects. And the actors do an incredible job. Martina Gedeck and Johanna Wokalek stand out in this universally good cast as Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin.
Also, to be fair, it has to be said, that the beginning of the movie is really gripping and well done. The viewer gets to understand a lot about the feeling of the time and the intentions of the protagonists are well-explained.
But the whole thing goes downhill after a while. By the time Ulrike Meinhof joins the group and Andreas Baader breaks out of prison, we lose focus. Suddenly there are new members in almost every scene and none of them gets introduced properly (with the exception of Peter-Jürgen Boock). Certainly, not every character needs a back story, but it would have been essential to tell the audience at least how these recruits got to join the group in general.
By the time that Meinhof, Baader and Ensslin are imprisoned, we really don't care about the RAF any more. And this is mainly because we have no idea who these "2nd generation" people are. Even people who know about the RAF will wonder who this or that guy in each scene is supposed to be because only few of them are even mentioned by name. The assassinations of von Mirbach, Buback and Ponto are just checked off a list to get the story to completion. And the whole Schleyer-kidnapping as well as the attack on the "Landshut" which are supposed to serve as the climax of the movie have terrible timing and leave out so much important information.
But also the handling of characters of the "1st generation" is done poorly in parts. Raspe is basically absent from the movie until he gets taken in by the police, same with Meins, whose only purpose in the movie it is to get captured, force-fed and then die. Only these three scenes. Nothing more is seen of him! Neither Eichinger nor Edel really cared to explain or teach anything. The whole thing was just planned as a big production to show off 2/3 of the more well-known actors working in Germany in one movie. Even the guy who attempts to assassinate Rudi Dutschke gets played by a well known actor (Tom Schilling). What this movie would have needed is the kind of epilogue that Eichinger put at the end of "der Untergang" to show what happened to some characters and also to even explain who these characters were supposed to be.
So, we only have one more chance to find out. Since the movie is filled with well-known actors, reading the credits might help. No chance here. Except for the main characters no character name is mentioned in the credits, only the actors who showed up. To me, this is the ultimate proof that Eichinger didn't care about the characters at all, all he cared about was the actors he could squish into this movie.
There are other things that others will criticize, for example the way the victims are turned just into cardboard figures with no purpose other than getting assassinated, or the fact that the German government, which was very involved especially in the final act, is not present at all. I personally do not mind these things too much, because I understand that this is not the story the makers wanted to tell.
I only criticize the movie for what it is. A nice-looking, but unfortunately very hollow and confusing piece of work. Too bad. It was a great chance that was missed here.
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