BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX, THE
Germany in the 1970s: murderous bomb attacks, the threat of terrorism and the fear of the enemy inside are rocking the very foundations of the still fragile German democracy. The radicalised children of the Nazi generation led by Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu), Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) and Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek) are fighting a violent war against what they perceive as the new face of fascism: American imperialism supported by the German establishment. Their aim is to create a more humane society but by employing inhumane means they not only spread terror and bloodshed, they also lose their own humanity. The man who best understands them is also their hunter: the head of the German police force, Horst Herold (Bruno Ganz). And while he succeeds in his relentless pursuit of the young terrorists, he knows he's only dealing with the tip of the iceberg.
Review by Louise Keller:
The Baader Meinhof Complex is an uncompromisingly brutal look at German left-wing militants in the 70s, whose fanatic mindset set off a disturbing and shattering chain of events. The film highlights the ugliest side of human nature and as a result it is a sobering experience, reinforcing the futility of violence. Adapted from a book by Stefan Aust depicting the historic events, the screenplay delivers what we sense is a blow by blow account, and while the accuracy of historical facts is imperative, the film's impact from its drawn out structure, suffers somewhat as a consequence. The cast is faultless however, with Moritz Bleibtreu and Martina Gedeck superb as movement leaders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.
Directed by Uli Edel, who also contributed to the screenplay, the film gives an excellent sense of the times, when the Vietnam War raged and revolution was the word on the streets. Their aim is to fight oppression and injustice around the world: 'It's possible to take action and win,' Gedeck's respected journalist Meinhof writes. Bleibtreu's Baader insists 'only a gun makes it fun; change things or die trying.' Perhaps the film's most interesting part is the beginning, when we learn how Baader and Meinhof become the leaders, figureheads and inspiration to the movement. In the case of Meinhof, a political journalist with two young children, it is her conviction to act, rather than do nothing that propels her. Her desertion of her children is unfathomable.
The events, characters and storylines are as complex as the title suggests, and we feel the desperation of all the participants throughout - be it in the field training, robbing banks, stealing cars, setting off explosives and bombs and callously pulling the trigger and precipitating blood baths. There is so much violence, I almost felt desensitised at the senseless killings and there are many disquieting images - from force feeding hunger strikers to twitching bodies shattered by multiple bullets. There is no question of the film's validity as a historic retelling of the times, yet as an emotional journey and an insight into the lives of those involved, I hoped for more.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you lived through the 70s as an adult (or young adult), you will remember the name, Baader Meinhof, also known as the Red Army Faction. Perhaps like me, you'll have forgotten what they stood for. This film reminds us that they didn't really stand for anything much more than anarchy, even though they - eventually - dressed it up as a desire to 'free the oppressed' and destroy US imperialism, as they saw it. They wanted world peace, if you like, even it meant waging war and slaughtering civilians to get it. This much is clear from Bernd Eichinger's intricate screenplay, but even with Uli Edel's dedicated direction, the film ends up rather episodic. It's like watching a historical dramatisation in fast forward, where, inevitably, we miss lots of detail and can only surmise the thrust of the work. (Eichinger also wrote & produced Downfall, a masterpiece of German cinema.)
In trying to cram a great deal into 150 minutes, the filmmakers necessarily jump scenes like puddles, and sometimes the audience gets lost. But for various reasons, I can excuse this flaw; for one thing, the patchwork or montage style provides the time frame, and shows how the young Baader Meinhof gang gave birth to a whole raft of terrorist clusters and organisations, each growing more violent than the last.
I also appreciate the exceptionally fine performances from the entire cast, who are challenged in every scene. Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu), Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) and Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek) are now real people in my memory bank, as are many of the support characters - although I admit to being confused about who they are by name.
Perhaps the most important function of a movie about the Baader Meinhofs of this world is to reveal their hollow morality, their arrogance and their cruelty; nothing romantic here to entice youngsters to kill innocent civilians in pursuit of peace and freedom. In this respect, the film highlights the absolute failure of politically driven terrorism as an agent of socio-political change. Real, and really valuable change, can be bought about by societies without large scale slaughter - as they were with the fall of corrupt and greedy President Marcos of the Philippines, and the fall of European communism.
Finally, I thank the film for its information value about one of the most notorious terror groups of the recent past.
Email this article
AUDIO REVIEW (1 minute)
By Andrew L. Urban
BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX, THE (MA)
Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
CAST: Martina Gedeck, Moritz Bleibtreu, Johanna Wokalek, Bruno Ganz, Nadja Uhl, Jan Josef Liefers, Stipe Erceg, Niels-Bruno Schmidt, Vinzenz Kiefer, Simon Licht, Alexandra Maria Lara
PRODUCER: Bernd Eichinger
DIRECTOR: Uli Edel
SCRIPT: Bernd Eichinger, Uli Edel (book by Stefan Aust)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rainer Klausmann
EDITOR: Alexander Berner
MUSIC: Peter Hindertur, Florian Tessloff
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bernd Lepel
RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 7, 2009