26 year-old Karl Marx embarks with his wife, Jenny, on the road to exile. In 1844 Paris, he meets Friedrich Engels, an industrialist's son, who investigated the sordid birth of the British working-class. Engels, the dandy, provides the last piece of the puzzle to the young Karl Marx's new vision of the world. Together, between censorship and the police's repression, riots and political upheavals, they will lead the labor movement during its development into a modern era.
Peck's film follows appealingly prickly young Marx and Engels from their early insistence on the hard truths of class-conflict against the utopian socialists of their day, to the founding of the first workers' international with a program of anti-capitalist struggle, the Communist Manifesto. Only a profit-system triumphalist would resist cheering them on along with the galvanized, wretched workers of 1848. The contrasting constraints on their activist mates, the high-born Jenny Marx and worker Mary Burns, raise still-pressing issues, and the situation of Engels, the revolutionary intellectual who must finance the cause by working for the enemy, may resonate with professionals today.
But the movie, concluding with a montage of wars and protests churned up by the profit system in the present, feels frustrating and incomplete - inevitably so. It doesn't show the collective hero of Marx and Engels' vision, the world working class. This class, that produces all, is now ever more interlinked and technically advanced. But its political development hasn't caught up with material conditions that never existed in previous challenges to capitalism. The decisive fight against the old system for humanity's future has yet to be waged, its film still to be made.
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