Monday, March 1, 2010

The Baader Meinhof Complex 2008

After finding more about the story that this movie is about you almost feel that you are watching a documentary, the director and producers didn’t miss any details to bring this story into film. “ The Baader Meinhof Complex” is a tough, unnerving, forcefully unromantic fictional film about a West German terrorist group whose founders ran bloodily in the 1970s. It starts in 1967, the pivotal character is Ulrike Meinhof ( Martine Gedeck) a respected journalist who one day jumped out of a window while helping a prisoner, Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu), escape. The moment she jumped, Meinhof left her world behind for a life of revolutionary idealogy and nihilistic violence. She traded her typewriter for a gun, as well as her children.

I have always been fascinated with facts and stories about all the revolts in 1968 in different parts of the world like; Paris, Budapest, Berkeley, Mexico City among others,

 “The Baader Meinhof Complex,” was adapted from Stefan Aust’s book of the same title. For the most part, relying heavily on the historical record, Mr. Eichinger lets the group do its own talking, as does the film’s director, Uli Edel, who gives it the pulse and music of a thriller. (The score echoes those of the “Bourne” movies.) This probably accounts for why some have accused the film of glamorizing terrorism, which misses the point that all terrorism is performative. What it does show, from the inside out, is how a group of people graduated from theoretical debates to guns, from hanging up a photo of Che to embracing revolutionary martyrdom.

The story by Stefan Aust book owes much of its power to its exacting detail and to his familiarity with the group, which self-importantly labeled itself the Red Army Faction. A journalist, he wrote for the leftist newspaper co-founded by Meinhof’s husband, for which she was a columnist and had extolled the “progressive” virtues of arson. Mr. Aust, who shows up at the edges of the film, played by Volker Bruch, helped rescue her children, whom she had handed off to minders while she was on the run. For the Red Army Faction the enemies included American imperialism and what it saw as an emerging West German police state: in May 1972 it bombed a police station, a newspaper and several United States Army sites.

The filmmakers lay out the historical and political context in which the faction took root; in an early scene the police beat unarmed demonstrators protesting a visit by the shah of Iran and his wife, but they don’t try to dig deeply into the heads of the group’s individual members. Instead of trying to put the faction on the couch, they suggest how the political converged with the personal against a global backdrop of social protest movements, political assassinations and increasingly repressive state reactions. They also offer plenty of proof that some in the group, particularly Baader, got off on the thrill of it all.

“You’re the ultimate bourgeois sow!” Baader once yelled at Meinhof, an insult that, to judge from her relatively passive reaction in the film, she absorbed into her being. Terror takes different forms. And Baader, who continually lashes out at the women in the group, his crazy, fearless girlfriend, Gudrun Ensslin, played by Johanna Wokalek, is as much his baby sitter as lover and a tyrant. Opportunism rather than ideology seemed to drive him, as the story develops he gets more obsessive and violent. In the end the Red Army Faction attracted extraordinary sympathy throughout West Germany along with true-believers who formed new generations of the group even as the founders languished in prison. The group’s members, who feared a police state and whose actions only brought the government’s fist down harder, were players in a real-life thriller that turned into a national tragedy. Theirs is a terrible, mesmerizing story of curdled idealism, one that has been told before but rarely as well. The faction is gone now (it disbanded in 1998), but its legacy still burns.

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 radicalized 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 (Bruno Gantz). And while he succeeds in his relentless pursuit of the young terrorists, he knows he's only dealing with the tip of the iceberg.

The movie is long but it is really entertaining and you are immediately captured by it.

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