27 September 2009
At the movies: The Baader-Meinhof Complex.
The Red Army Faction. In the 60s and 70s, a force of chaos, violence, and revolution in West Germany, sprung from the children of the Nazi generation who have decided to take a radicalized stance against any kind of fascism they fear imminent. It’s classic dramatic conflict, but writ large in getting at the heart of both terrorism and social revolution, as well as the question of who gets to determine which is which.
Director Uli Edel (who made the masterpiece Last Exit to Brooklyn and the cataclysmic Body of Evidence) brings his a-game to the material, a must-view for students of history and human nature. With little English-language press, Edel’s film made it to the final five nominees for the Best Foreign language film Oscar earlier this year. A smash hit in Germany last year, the film’s expansive vision helps condense an involved and complex (ha!) social movement into a brisk and provocative vision about how idealism can be gradually, grotesquely unmade.
The Baader-Meinhof Complex is that rarest kind of political film; one that lets its perspective evolve along with the story rather than shaping the material to fit a predetermined agenda. Even more impressive, it’s the kind of film that makes the viewer go through countless internal ideological debates, never reaching the kind of slack place where one passively lets the film unfold in front of them.
Explosive, both in terms of literal content and ideological heft.