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The Baader-Meinhof Complex (9/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 144 minutes.
Not for children.
This is the story of the Baader-Meinhof Group
(aka The Red Army Faction, or RAF), in Germany from
1967-77, maybe the first group of urban terrorists in the terror war.
Although meager in numbers, they were so effective and feared that the
entire country was almost shut down to capture these people. I have a
good friend who was traveling in Germany during
the worst of the times. She resembled one of the women in the
Baader-Meinhof Group and she was questioned, sometimes intensely, at
every border crossing. So what you see in this film, about the
precautions the German government took to capture these people, is not
some Hollywood-inspired creation.
Although I donít want to damn with faint
praise, this has the best subtitles Iíve ever seen in a movie. They are
big and white with black borders. Not once did they blend in with the
background. However, for me, sometimes the background was extremely
disconcerting because it was made up of bare-breasted babes (mostly
Johanna Wokalek). Whatís a guy to do, look at the boobs or read the
subtitles? I confess I might have missed reading some of the dialogue.
This is a terrific film. The titular heads of
the gang were Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtrue), a wide-eyed lunatic,
reminiscent of Hitler, and Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck), a
journalist-turned terrorist. Meinhof was a well-known journalist,
appearing on many German talk shows before she participated in a plan to
spring Baader from jail in 1970, when she became an active participant.
Meinhof is pictured relatively sympathetically, although she does agree
to give up her children in order to pursue the Gangís goals. Much more
partisan and rabid is Baaderís girlfriend, Gudrun Ensslin (Wokalek), who
is as much a zealot as Baader. Iím not sure why Meinhof is treated so
relatively sympathetically. She had a well-known history in the illegal
Communist Party. She is not only credited with being a co-founder of the
Group, she was the author of 'The Urban Guerrilla Concept,' which
influenced many insurgent and guerilla groups. She was clearly a prime
mover, even though sheís pictured as being somewhat subservient to
Brilliantly directed and written by Uli Edel,
in collaboration with Bernd Eichinger, from the book by Stefan Aust,
this takes a realistic view of a very dangerous period in German history
told basically from the terroristsí POV. Edel was in school when the RAF
first sprung into prominence, so he knows the emotions they inspired.
Edel was as faithful to the facts as possible,
even using actual locations, like the Berlin opera house
where a student was killed in a 1967 riot and the same courthouse where
the Group was tried. This film shows them to be the fanatics they were.
It never seemed to me that they were revolutionaries so much as
Although the film only covers 10 years, ending
when the main participants committed suicide, it actually continued in
operation until 1996. It was held responsible for 34 deaths and many
injuries in its almost 30 years of activity.
The acting is uniformly
excellent. Even though this goes on for almost 2 Ĺ hours, it never
drags. In German with excellent subtitles.