The Baader-Meinhof Complex (18)

Film

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Nov 11 2008

Strange to say, for a movie pitched as an extended historical action-adventure, director Uli Edel’s equally fascinating and frustrating portrait of the formation, terrorist activities and imprisonment of the later-named Red Army Faction (RAF) from 1967 to 1977 may be too subtle for its own good.

Based on Stefan Aust’s non-fiction bestseller and prefaced with the ever suspicious claim ‘a true story’, his film opens on the exclusive, partly nudist, Baltic holiday island of Sylt in June 1967, as Janis Joplin plays on the soundtrack and we see the German journalist and mother Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) observe the regimented ‘freedoms’ of the late ’60s privileged bourgeoisie. Meinhof is one of three main characters on which the film rovingly concentrates – many are seen, few are identified – alongside criminally enthusiastic RAF co-founder Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and his anti-authoritarian, pastor’s-daughter girlfriend, Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek).

But it is Meinhof’s unpredictable conversion from radical writer to full-blown ‘revolutionary’ which is at the heart of this episodic film’s essential mystery. She aids a bold rescue mission to spring the imprisoned Baader, takes an increasingly important role in the faction’s tactics and organisation, even abandoning her children to a Palestinian camp, before cracking up in Stammheim prison.

One of the most expensive recent German films, ‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’ has a good pedigree among its makers. Its eclectic producer and writer, Bernd Eichinger, was responsible not only for ‘Downfall’ but also one of the seminal cinematic inquiries into the Nazi heritage with Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s ‘Hitler: A Film from Germany’. Edel, with films including ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’, has shown a creative taste for Hollywood-style spectacle and a bold, often savage, insight into the  workings of murky and violent human passions.

Cultural and dramatic competence is in evidence here, but  this is a film more intent to show rather than understand. It’s also more content to present an admittedly compelling and relevant ‘factual’ history but loath to offer any profound social, political or psychological analysis of its protagonists. As such, this is a film that’s bound to disappoint and bemuse as much as it intrigues.

The reconstructions are impressive, notably the violent response of supporters of the Shah of Iran and riot police to a Berlin demonstration which, legend has it, concentrated the mind of the left and provided the foundations for the Baader-Meinhof gang’s support. Also remarkable are the evocations of the ideas, conflicts and contradictions of the time.

At two and a half hours, it’s a risky, if laudable, strategy to outline a decade-long chronicle of events – arson attacks, bank raids, assassinations and kidnappings – without adopting, or privileging, a fully developed character with whom the audience can relate to or identify. As an action-packed pageant of events it is  excitingly demonstrative and provocative, but as human drama it proves a mite too enigmatic and unyielding.
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Release details

Rated:

18

UK release:

Fri Nov 14, 2008

Duration:

150 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Uli Edel

Cast:

Martina Gedeck, Moritz Bleibtreu, Johanna Wokalek

Users say

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Average User Rating

2.8 / 5

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LiveReviews|6
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Mark

I did not know a lot about these events; learned a lot and have different opinions than the ones shown here, but some of the same elements. I think Baader took advantage of a situation to indulge his Messianic, arrogant, and charismatic self. I don't think he had one bit of belief in the politics and used the group to indulge his murderous and libidinous leanings. Ulkoff I think at the end recognized this and slipped into madness, angry that she was duped but trying to convince herself by trying to make like the solitary confinement she occasionaly had to suffer was anything other than her just desserts. Notice that the suicides were trying to be couched as govertment killings by the group leaders UNTIL they all commitetd suicide, after which the new leader said "they CHOSE to die," and they end their killings with Schelyer, who was probably killed for no other reason that he could identify them.

Hoi Poloi

Two hours and twenty minutes of the Bader Meinhof Brats sprouting their incomprehensible revolutionary rhetoric and punctuated by scenes of gun fights and explosions. Director Edel totally fails to involve the viewer.

Carole L. Glickfeld

I didn't understand the point of this docudrama. It shed no additional light on the facts, did not illuminate the motivations (spoken bits of rhetoric aside) of the main characters. Having the enemy indulging in lobster soup was a sorry attempt to demonize.

German Alex

This movie is definitely worth watching, if only to see a compelling view of an earlier phase of international terrorism. I would concede that the episodes featurng the run-up to the deaths in prison felt slightly lengthy when compared to your average Hollywood movie, but that should not put off aficionados of Channel 4 classics. These days it is difficult to comprehend how political activists could get so worked up about wars that their government was not even involved in. The movie could not satisfy any attempt of understanding how an established and admired journalist like Ulrike Meinhof could fall under the spell of an intellectually limited character like Andreas Baader. She must have understood that their campain of arbitrary killings was both cruel and pointless.

German Alex

This movie is definitely worth watching, if only to see a compelling view of an earlier phase of international terrorism. I would concede that the episodes featurng the run-up to the deaths in prison felt slightly lengthy when compared to your average Hollywood movie, but that should not put off aficionados of Channel 4 classics. These days it is difficult to comprehend how political activists could get so worked up about wars that their government was not even involved in. The movie could not satisfy any attempt of understanding how an established and admired journalist like Ulrike Meinhof could fall under the spell of an intellectually limited character like Andreas Baader. She must have understood that their campain of arbitrary killings was both cruel and pointless.