| This epic political drama from Germany was one of the five finalists for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. It is a comprehensive and detailed historical account of the Red Army Faction (RAF) in West Germany, led by Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu from “Munich” and “Taking Sides”), Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck from “The Good Shepherd,” “Mostly Martha” and “The Lives of Others”) and Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek). Their pernicious and persistent terrorist tactics disrupted the peace and wrought havoc in the name of political freedom.
Based on a book by Stefan Aust, the movie is directed by Uli Edel, who co-wrote the screenplay with Bernd Eichinger (“Downfall” and “Perfume”). This docudrama begins in summer 1967 and ends in fall 1977.
With a running time of 2½ hours, the viewer desperately needs an intermission to take a breather from being bombarded with so much information in one sitting. It is an overwhelming challenge to read the lengthy subtitles, keep track of all the characters and watch what is happening on a busy screen. The television mini-series version in Germany added an additional 30 minutes.
There is an abrupt introduction of the major characters, who determine that words of protest are not enough to bring about change. One key component is the number of women involved in this extremist group. They are more fervent and willing to take chances as an outcry against the men who are in power and running the machine of government.
The movie is dry and emotionless with very little dialogue about why the participants are so devoted to the cause. There is very little character development. The movie is full of violent criminal action with a bloody street riot, bomb explosions, kidnappings, bank robberies and assassinations. The movie also has sexual content and graphic female nudity. The movie opens with two naked young girls playing in the sand on a nude beach.
The gang of hoodlums goes from riding high with loud music, fast cars, revolvers and wild parties to hopelessness in prison after becoming Germany’s most wanted criminals.
Horst Herold (Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler in “Downfall” and the law professor in “The Reader”) heads up the relentless German police pursuit of these young and spirited anarchists. Non-history buffs will recognize the tie-in to the 1972 Munich Olympics. Black September took the Israeli team hostage and demanded the release of more than 230 Palestinians and other prisoners. Baader, Meinhof and Ennslin were on the list.
Actual newsreel footage and newspaper headlines are sprinkled throughout the screenplay to add authenticity to this amazing true story. The acting is top drawer and everyone behind the camera is technically proficient with a workmanlike approach. The monumental task of editing by Alexander Berner deserves special mention.
The movie was nominated for German Film Awards in the categories of direction, editing, outstanding feature film and lead actress (Wokalek). The dialogue is primarily in German with a little French, Swedish and English.
Now playing exclusively for a limited engagement at the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"