Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Baader-Meinhof Complex REVIEWED. (BSDA #5)

So today I watched a film called the Baader-Meinhof Complex, about the Rote Armee Fraktion, the extremist left-wing terrorist organisation which operated in Germany mainly in the 1970s. Let's start with the simple bit. It was an extremely good film which I would recommend to anyone with an interest in terrorism (not in that way, you understand), late German history or social revolutions. Or indeed simply if you like good films. (Parental advisory, of course, given the copious amounts of violence, drug use and nudity.)

Fred Kaplan of the New York Times said that "when the film opened in Germany last year, some younger viewers came out of theaters crestfallen that the Red Army Faction members, still mythologized, were such dead-enders. Some who were older complained that the film had made the gang look too attractive. But they were dead-enders, and they were attractive. A film about them, or any other popular terrorist movement, has to account for both facts if it seeks to explain not just their crimes but also their existence."

I think this is a brilliant review, hence the shameless stealing. The best thing about this film is that it neither totally glamorises nor totally pathologises the RAF - instead it gives you the whole story. The violence, the sexual freedom, the casual misogyny, the brutal murders, the disdain for the law both from the RAF and the authorities, the madness, the Marxian politics and the wider picture of the radicalised German left of the time. There's very little in the way of moralising here; some have argued there's too little. It is the viewer's decision as to how to interpret the actions of the RAF: are they just brutal killers? Sexy freedom fighters? A group with ideals gone wrong? To me, the latter seems the case, but this is a matter of individual interpretation. 

Despite the German film industry only having about four actors, the movie is superbly acted throughout. Even the guys in bit part roles manage to fill you with an understanding of their characters' complexities and the difficulties of living in such a radical and brutal world as that of the RAF. I did however think some of the characters' roles were underdeveloped, and too many characters simply popped in and out of the action randomly, though this is probably a necessary consequence of trying to summarise the actions of a movement over ten years within two and a half hours. 

Whether you watch it as a study of a hugely controversial group in recent history, or as a crime drama, or as a political thriller, there is very little wrong with this film. It was a worthy recipient of its many awards, and is only a part of the 21st century renaissance within German film which happily shows no signs of abating.


Oi oi oi. If you enjoyed reading this, there's only one thing to do now. No, not hijack a plane or storm the German embassy in Stockholm. Follow this blog. And good stuff will probably happen.

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