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I agree with the other comments on the following points: the film does
indeed concentrate on the culprits and their actions in a documentary
way (as opposed to an interpretation of the RAF's ideas and motivations
from a clear-cut political standpoint). Although the victims DO appear
they are not characterized more closely; the only representative of the
state is Horst Herold (head of the BKA), politicians do not show up at
all, the media appear only in the shape of Springer, konkret and
Spiegel and even the lawyers (Haag, Croissant, Schily, Ströbele, etc.)
are merged into only one (fictitious?) character. I for one do agree
with this approach and if you are prepared for it you probably can live
with it too. In any case, despite all the chases, shootouts and
explosions it hasn't become a mere action-film.
What's more problematic is that the film follows the book by Stefan Aust VERY closely. Therefore the dramaturgy is more similar to "real life" than to a classical feature film (e.g. there are many changes in pace, several climaxes are distributed over the course of the film and a proper arc of suspense is somewhat missing). "Fortunately" real life offered a culmination of events with the Schleyer kidnapping in the "German Autumn" 1977, so that the film ends in a reasonably satisfying way. Nevertheless the end credits come a little abruptly.
The second problem is that the film tries to show virtually ALL events from the book (only some minor incidents like the Mahler detention, Peter Urbach, the burglaries in registration offices in order to steal blank passports or the visit of Jean-Paul Sartre in Stammheim are missing) so that it needs to squeeze 10 years of history into 140 minutes. The result is a film with breakneck speed at some points. The better scenes (e.g. the training camp in Jordan or the lawsuit in Stammheim) are obviously those where the film catches breath, calms down and takes its time for the actors to shine.
The quality of the acting ranges from good to fantastic (with very few exceptions like Alexandra Maria Lara, who is nothing more than wide-eyed again and who thankfully doesn't even have dialogue). Especially Martina Gedeck and Johanna Wokalek are sensational. It is THEIR film and the conflicts in Stammheim which led to Meinhof's suicide are acted Oscar-worthy. But Michael Gwisdek (Ensslin's father), Jan Josef Liefers (Peter Homann), Sebastian Blomberg (Rudi Dutschke), Nadja Uhl (Brigitte Mohnhaupt) and Hannah Herzsprung (Susanne Albrecht) are also very good.
The production values are excellent too. A lot of locations, a great deal of main and supporting roles, hundreds of extras, good special effects (mainly explosions) and a set design and costume design which creates a very coherent 70's atmosphere: you can see that the film cost a lot of money. Every cent is on the screen.
I didn't like the choice of music that much. Deep Purple's "Child in Time" is always great to hear, but the rest (Janis Joplin, The Who, Bob Dylan) is just too mainstreamy and unimaginative for my taste (but probably also very expensive). Why not use MC5, Ton Steine Scherben or Ennio Morricone's "Vamos a matar, companeros"?
Now I'm looking forward to the reactions and reviews from other countries, who probably don't know this part of German history very well. In the US I expect the criticism that there are too many naked people, too many swear words and even more cigarettes (every one in BMK smokes everywhere and at all times), in order to distract from the politics of the film ;-) "Der Baader Meinhof Komplex" isn't the masterpiece on the history of the first generation of the RAF that I had hoped for in my comments on "Todesspiel", but altogether it is a very suspenseful, fascinating, densely narrated and well acted film. Hopefully it will not be the last word on the subject, but it succeeds in giving the audience the basic RAF knowledge on which future (less neutral, more opinionated) movies can build their stories.
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.
First of all this is a very important film. Just like the other "Big"
film by Eichinger "Der Untergang" it confronts the German audience (and
the world should it care) with some aspect of German history that
people should know about. In this case the "myth" of the RAF. To
everyone who lived through the seventies in Germany it is clear that
the influence of the RAF on Germany can hardly be exaggerated. I was a
kid but my impression at the time was that both sides were wrong. There
was a constant fear of terror coming from the terrorists but also from
the state. (People did not get jobs if it was suspected they were
"left".) So to make a blockbuster film, even if it does not really
explain the motives of the main characters involved, at least gives us
some facts. Not everyone is prepared to watch documentaries or read the
book by Aust, but everyone should have some thoughts or maybe
discussions on the subject.
Okay, but does it succeed as a film? Not entirely. The actors as everyone agrees were excellent, the cinematography as well. You do think you are in the seventies. That in itself is amazing. The action scenes are done splendidly, especially at the beginning the riots during the visit of the Persian Shah which culminated in the shooting of a student which in turn was, at least to some extent, the origin of the rise of terror. Of course the film is episodic and there are too many characters in it, most of them are not introduced in any way and ten years of complex history cannot be told in an altogether satisfying way. But the film succeeds in giving us a sense of what was going on. The producer, Bernd Eichinger has been accused of vanity. Which is a funny thing. Of course, he is vain. He has the duty to be vain as long as he also feels a responsibility to make movies that try to tell something. And the challenge, he feels, is to say it to as many people as possible.
Brilliant film about the Baader-Meinhof group, i.e. one of the most active modern terrorist groups. The film starts with showing people peacefully demonstrating against the Shah of Iran and his wife who were visiting Western Germany in the late 60s; on signal, supporters of the Shah and the police rush and senselessly beat demonstrators into pulp. The imagery is one that will not soon leave my mind, being extremely reminiscent of what happened in the G8 protests at Genoa and Gothenburg about 30 years later. Back to the film: the leftist movement is at this time very much against the police state that Western Germany has become. As the hippie 60s obviously didn't help much with turning things around, the early 70s - brought on by with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the US carrying on their war in Vietnam with Nixon coming into power and the West German government was being accused for merely being a puppet in the hands of imperialist America, some people wanted to turn things around without using flowers and kind words. These people were seriously convinced that the word was revolution, and used kidnapping, bombs and bullets for change. This film is the story of the core of the Baader-Meinhof group, and it's close to the best political cinema I've ever seen; the direction, the acting, the script, the editing and the music...it's as if the make-up is washed away from how political films usually are, leaving the viewer to decide what's right and wrong. It's interesting to see how the Baader-Meinhof group works as the members are increasingly isolated and brain-wash each other by simply interacting with their hardcore ideals as the base. Brilliant and highly recommendable, of course no matter what your personal political ideas are.
The movie of Edel and Eichinger is fine when it comes to sets and
costumes. It seems to catch the mood of the late Sixties and Seventies
very well. Also the lead actors Bleibtreu, Wokalek and Gedeck have
delivered outstanding performances. Too bad, that they don't get a
chance to really explore their characters: Too much else is going on in
this movie, that completely loses its focus during the last hour. The
closer we get to the end, the more it resembles a documentary with a
few scenes of play cut in now and then.
The viewer is presented with a lot of facts - and violence - but the movie fails in decoding the often cited "myth" of the RAF. For example, I've always wondered, whether Baader was just a criminal or really politically motivated. Well, in the first half of the movie, Baader is portrayed as an outlaw, who enjoys provocation and fast cars. Later he delivers sophisticated political statements. A good movie should at least try to explain this development. DER BAADER MEINHOF KOMPLEX doesn't.
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.
Although being somewhat more than moderately interested in politics, I knew very little about the original activities on which this film is based. Having seen the film, I now feel vastly more knowledgeable on how world events in the late sixties and early seventies led from the emergence to the demise of this particular left wing faction. My attention was fully engaged throughout the film. I thought the screenplay brilliantly portrayed the way the mindset of the RAF developed as they became more and more convinced they were living in a police state. Acting and direction were superb throughout. In spite of the violence and repression being depicted, I was reassured by the fact that such thought provoking films can and are being made for today's cinema audiences. After seeing Die Welle (I think it was three times) earlier this year I am now very enthusiastic about German cinema and shall certainly be hoping to see Der Baader Meinhof Komplex at least once more on the big screen this year. A masterpiece of political film making. Highly recommended.
Being aged, knowing most about the R.A.F story from the news when it happened (1970s) including the events in 1968 (Berlin, Prague , Mexico , U.S.A.) I am much more disappointed in this " big production' on a major theme in post war German (European) history, than most other critics up till now. If you know little or nothing about the subject, like many younger people, this may seem a " cool movie". Just as an action pic, you're right. However, what I miss, is the ideological context in which all this was happening. There is some mention of sectarian leftist groups, we see major mass protests of university students, etc. And the starting scenes in Berlin (visit of Sjah) are the main " background" to the " movement". (by the way, how many under 30 people knew about the Sjah of Persia, anyway? I even remember first spouse Soraya from the early 60's...). What I miss, is , an explanation of what and how on the mass student meetings, they are just shown. Also missing are the deeper context of postwar BRD (Germany) not having come to terms with the Nazi past, especially in the situation of many former NSDAP - symp's having high places in society, government, industry, etc. As I remember, that was one of the main frustrations in leftist circles ( and not only there...). Etcetera. In this respect, seeing the first gen. members of R.A.F. speeding to an unexplained action in BMW's on the " autobahn" as if they were fun-cruising L.A. in a Tarantino muscle-car flic while having My Generation by the Who on the stereo this all is quite unbelievable for people informed about that era. I don't believe these guys were jet-set-emulators. Jet-set was capitalist and thus their opposite social stratum. Which they fought , with all fatal results. And, why the story ending with the death of the first four, how shocking it may be? This whole episode is too much for one movie. As a Dutch proverb says: " they took too much hay on their fork". (meaning the makers of B.M. Komplex). genomen".
I went to see this movie without any knowledge of the RAF. I wasen't
even born when the RAF was active. Still I could follow the story of
the movie because, even though some figures are vague and get no
introduction, the most important story lines are explained.
The movie follows the beginning, top and ending of the first RAF-members; Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof in particular. The rest of the group doesen't get the big introduction Ulrike got but with so many interesting characters the film would get even longer then its 2.5 hours.
That is inmediatly the biggest problem with the film; it's length. Because of the variety of events and characters, Der Baader-Meinhof complex never gets boring, but at some point in the movie you start to get irritated by the new events. It would be more wisely if the director had chosen to make a sequel, sothat the second RAF-members get the attention they deserve.
So why 8 out of 10 stars? Simple, as an action-movie this is brilliant. The story is good and the movie doesen't tell more than it has to. The biggest achievement however is in my point of view the political statement. It doesen't make it. Der Baader-Meinhof complex tells the story of the RAF, but never approves the actions of the group, but also doesen't disapprove them. And that is a great achievement.
a few words in advance,
never could a movie dealing with the RAF reach a high average vote and lead to a general approval. It simply depends on the different emotions according to this topic. Don't forget that some 35 years ago there existed an unbelievable high support among young people for the terroristic organization whereas the majority looked with disgust at the murderers.
So watching this movie is simply not more than a check whether the director catches the already existing attitude towards this controversial topic. In my eyes, the optimal way to direct this movie would have to treat it like a partly documentary with many original television scenes connected with the presentation of the characters. What I was interested in was whether this movie is able to place the viewer inside the plot, whether one could feel the atmosphere of this extreme period of German history and whether the presented scenes are consistent with the documents one had seen in television reports before. The movie has definitely come up to my expectations. The characters are just brilliant. It is some of the best German work of acting I have ever seen, every single scenes is so consistent with the picture one has in mind. Almost nothing stays from the line of the real development. The only thing I criticize is the selection of scenes. Maybe, the killers are given to much space to call out their misplaced ideology but neither is their behavior justified nor is any sympathy given to them. There doesn't exist any scope for interpretation about who was right and who was wrong. Furthermore, a few more words could have been given to the victims of the RAF whose assassinations are presented very precisely.
All in all, it is a shocking but good movie.
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