Germany's Official submission to the Academy Awards; this film was nominated for the best foreign language film awards in the 81st Oscars. Director Uli Edel’s “BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX” is a look at the events that had transpired between 1967-1977 in West Germany. It chronicles the events that led to the organization of the West German militant group called the Red Army Faction (RAF) by Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader. The film is based on the non-fiction novel written by Stefan Aust. In order to understand what the film is all about, one has to know a little about the events that transpired in Germany during this chaotic period. This period of the 60’s was full of political assassinations, a war in Vietnam and that Germany had become divided into Soviet and American controlled sides.
During this period, there was a lot of confusion and chaos over the country’s citizens, particularly the younger generation. Young people began to despise the older form of government while the older ones disliked the “free-loving” and anarchist ways of the newer generation. The “RAF” or “Red Faction Army” was founded by Ulrike Meinhof, originally intended to be a peaceful but outspoken group of folks but overtime, became a group of militants that were very unorganized that performed political assassinations of Germany’s government figures as well as several civilians. The actions of this group helped instigate the events in the 1972 Olympics that was known as the Munich massacre.
Our tale begins in 1967 in a nudist beach, as we find Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck), a proud mother of two kids. Meinhof is a journalist while Andreas Baader is an activist; both of them represent two sides of the Communist government. Agitated by America’s involvement in the war in Vietnam and their continued presence in West Germany, students and ideologues gather in the masses to protest the events. These protestations are often met with some brutal police reactions. Ulrike writes articles that praise the protest movement but she never really took a more active role until she meets a disillusioned intellectual side of the equation in the persona of Gudrun Ennslin (Johanna Wokalek), Baader’s girlfriend and puts Ulrike in a position to help their cause by breaking out her lover.
For the next several years, the Baader-Meinhof collective puts their propaganda in the streets, funding their cause and making a statement by robbing their so-called “capitalist” banks and bombing some U.S. army installations. The group gains some public sympathy that turns them into sorts of folk heroes. Now with the German Police led by Horst Herold (Bruno Ganz) on the hunt, the first half of the militant group focuses on terror while the second becomes focused in chronicling the imprisonment of its key leaders while keeping the cause alive. The trials and chaos went on throughout the late 70’s.
“The Baader Meinhof Complex” is a docudrama that is driven by the screenplay written by Bernd Eichinger (Downfall) who also co-produced the film. The film’s style has that journalistic rigor while keeping its docudrama atmosphere. It was nice to see the filmmakers stick to the book’s details rather than attempting to fill in some blanks on their own while avoiding an superfluous viewpoint and heavy directorial editing. The aim of the direction is the flesh out a very despised historical figure while avoiding the politics and emotion behind it. Uli Edel succeeds in some ways, but he does come a little short. Edel uses the film’s opening scene to express the free-loving lifestyle that the RAF organizers are so accustomed to; as people who’d rather have their voices heard than resort to violence. Later on, we see the RAF organize themselves and become more aggressive in their delivery of a political standpoint.
The film is brilliantly shot, nicely scripted and well-acted. The film approaches its premise with a very methodical manner with the delivery of its narrative and the manner it evolved its characters. The screenplay exhibited a main focus for the present because of the ripples that will affect the future. Director Edel avoids glorifying the killers, actually they are portrayed as confused, arrogant and determined. Meinhof is an intellectual who has the right ideas to enact an approach but lacks the necessary leadership skills to make it effective. She becomes overshadowed by an overzealous activist named Baader who becomes so obsessed in making a statement with no compromise. Meinhof never had the determination to stand up to her convictions while Baader is just so single-minded in purpose. Of course, the dominant figure will always be the leader. I guess “standing up” to what you think believe in and what you think is right is a good way to bond with others. The fact is, sometimes we just hear what we want to hear. The RAF fanatically believed that they were doing the right thing and is willing to do reprehensible things to get its message across. Think of Baader and Meinhof as a political “Bonnie and Clyde”.
The film pitches in some key moments in the sixties, and while the set designs and clothing does depict the passage of time; the film moves rather quickly that the viewer never gets to settle in because of the energetic direction that the sequences are barely convincing that some years have indeed passed (the story spans almost a decade). The film is easy to relate to, since you just have to turn on today’s news and you will see that humanity hasn’t really progressed past this behavior that can eventually lead to self-annihilation. The filmmakers doesn’t push towards any political agenda, but it is refreshing to see terrorists not having the usual turbans in a film. It gives a message that this type of thinking have existed throughout history. The film is quite unnerving and will make some viewers very uncomfortable with its graphic depiction of violence, an abundant display of sex and full frontal nudity and political overtones, it presents a very taut pace that generates an aura of suspense.
It was a clever move in the part of the filmmakers to show us the events that led to the rise and downfall of the RAF in a detached style that allows the viewer to see that the wrong decision can definitely lead one to ruin. It make one’s world turn upside down when we see the disillusionment of the RAF movement. Things like this can only end badly and this film reminds us that when people raise such flawed people to God-like status, they are most likely will be disappointed in what they will find in the end. Humans are flawed and it is always no good to idolize them however seductive and reasonable their arguments may be. “The Baader Meinhof Komplex” is an enthralling film; the performances are brilliant and is finely scripted, the only flaw I can see is that because of its disjointed execution, one may forget that the film is based on reality. It would be better if we all remember that mistakes like this can be fatal and disastrous. The film isn’t for everyone but definitely worthy of the recognition it attained.
Based on the authoritative biographical text by Stefan Aust, this fourth collaboration from Uli Edel and Bernd Eichinger (of Christiane F. fame) examines the Red Army Faction's eventful first decade. While the group's famed terrorist activities are afforded flashy reenactments in the style of an action film, Edel's primary goal is to convey these incidents and the individuals who planned and executed them as they were. Here, the critical elements of the group's … more
This was Germany's entry in the 81st academy awards. It is tough, gritty and a fast-paced thriller that covers the birth of the RAF movement. A knowledge of the true events may aid in the appreciation of this thriller but I thought this film was well-executed. It still stands as a compelling portrayal of extremism and perhaps of terrorism. Full review here.
The Baader Meinhof Complex is an at once exhilarating and horrific depiction of the rise and fall of a very prominent left-wing extremist group in '70s Germany, formed from an uneasy alliance between journalist Ulrike Meinhof and the incendiary couple Andreas Baader and his girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin. The film explores the initial motivations for their radicalization, the shift from anger and rebellion to increasingly violent acts of terror, and the dissolution of the group's ideology into seeming … more
A subject of enduring fascination for Germans (and anybody interested in the more vivid manifestations of the '60s counterculture), the Baader Meinhof gang roared through Europe for years, dividing a population that either demonized or romanticized their exploits. In The Baader Meinhof Complex the goal for director Uli Edel (Last Exit to Brooklyn) and screenwriter Bernd Eichinger is to play the material down the middle: to portray the events of the outlaw group without deciding they are either heroes or terrorists. Some of the motives for the Baader Meinhof gang are laid out early on; for instance, that for the generation born in Germany after Hitler's nightmare had ended, a return to fascism was unacceptable--even to the point of guerrilla activities against the state. Some of Germany's biggest stars are involved in bringing the principals to life, including Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run) as the self-important ringleader Andreas Baader and Johanna Wokalek (North Face) as Gudrun Ensslin, his co-conspirator and lover. The most intriguing narrative thread of the story comes from the decision by journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck, from The Lives of Others) to leap from her stable life and abruptly join Baader and Ensslin on the run. The subversive activities of the Red Army Faction (as the group dubbed itself), including bombings and arson attacks, are chronicled in rapid, blunt fashion by the movie, which seems less interested in a thoughtful reflection on ...