Sunday, November 16, 2008

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (The Baader Meinhof Complex)

I suppose that recent history movies are hard to digest for many especially if the movie is telling the story of your own country. This Uli Edel movie tells Germany recent history and does it with a documentary look and feel, and a complex narrative that tries to cover the creation of the Red Army Faction until the start of their eclipse. I feel that half the movie lacks a dramatic narrative that could engage viewers more and ends up being like a long succession of moments that only if you’re familiar with the 70’s world history, including and especially Germany, you will be able to get some of the reasons behind the violence of a group of idealists that ended up being urban terrorists.

Based on a book by Sefan Aust -that I haven’t read- I have the feeling that the screenplay portraits the group as “improvised” especially if you compare them to other so-called 70’s terrorist groups from other countries. My true impression from watching the first part of the movie is that the group had lots of passion but very little organizational skills and somehow I think that perhaps in true life probably it wasn’t like that as they were able to survive for more than a decade. Then in the second half of the movie, after the leaders end up in jail, the movie and screenplay changes for me and becomes not only more interesting to watch with a clear drama running as narrative, but also the group seemed to be a lot more organized when their leaders were in prison.

No matter if the story shown is accurate or not (most German viewers claim that it is very accurate to the book), it gives you a glimpse to the ‘70s blind passion that many young people felt compelled to live and actively participate instead of just watching from afar, and in this sense I found the story compelling and interesting especially because comes directly from a society then with a growing and still fragile democracy in a first world country.

As a movie is spectacular as cinematography, sets and costumes outstandingly give the feeling of being in the ‘70’s; but actors’ performances are excellent and facilitate the engagement with the story, especially with some non-political scenes and dialogues (the sex liberation) looking and sounding so ‘70s that became eerie for me. Then in the second half there are some very interesting framed scenes that give an arty style feeling at moments.

I think that if you were in your prime in the ‘70s and if you were an informed person from a country with younger people believing and participating in changing their countries and the world, definitively this movie will make you remember those years and perhaps you will enjoy it with passive participation, as this movie does not allow you to involucrate yourself. The last statement is perhaps the biggest flaw that I see in this movie, as the director and screenplay writer lost a fantastic opportunity to tell a slice of German recent past and involve their viewers no matter what their personal reaction could be. That’s why I had the feeling that I was watching more a documentary than a narrative feature film.

The movie is Germany’s official submission to the Oscars and has been circulating the festival circuit. Absolutely not for all audiences as it is not a history class or a easy to follow sequence of events, has many not developed characters –perhaps only one character is really well developed, Ulrike Meinhof- and is quite long with 150 minutes. This movie is suited for those interested in recent world history, German history and like at least European movies.

I was rapidly engaged with the movie as I’m familiar with some aspects of that infamous group and it was seriously great to be able to watch a portrait of the group with what it seems as very objective point-of-view, except for what I saw as suggestion of their lack of organizational skills. Still I do hope that, as some mention, this movie could open the path to other filmmakers and storytellers to tell the story with more insights and better character development.


Today, Sunday 16, I found an article that could help some of you readers to familiarize with the real events this movie tells. So, if you feel like watching this movie but know little about RAF, I suggest you read the article that I'm including as a comment before watching the movie.

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