The Baader Meinhof Complex
Details: (R18+), 149 mins, In Cinemas 7 May 2009, Germany,
Synopsis: The radicalised children of the Nazi generation led by Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin are fighting a violent war against what they perceive as the new face of fascism: American imperialism supported by the German establishment, many of whom have a Nazi past. Their aim is to create a more human society but by employing inhuman means they not only spread terror and bloodshed, they also lose their own humanity. The man who understands them is also their hunter: the head of the German police force, Horst Herold.
A stirring, bloodcurdling terrorist drama.
Germany’s entry for the 2009 best foreign-language pic Oscar, The Baader Meinhof Complex is a chilling, brutal account of the terrorist group which wreaked havoc in the 1960s and 70s.
Director Uli Edel and screenwriter-producer Bernd Eichinger have fashioned a tense, violent tale of jailbreaks, kidnappings, assassinations and bombings.
Based on the 1997 book by Stefan Aust, the film expertly re-enacts a series of dramatic incidents, and much of the dialogue is taken verbatim from historical records.
If there’s a minor flaw, it’s that little light is shed on the motivations of the middle-class intellectuals who were radicalized into becoming one of the most feared terrorist units of that era. They quote Mao Tse-Tung, spout propaganda and slogans denouncing “oppression and injustice,” and hate the US, capitalism and their own government, but it’s never clear how any of this justifies their repellent actions.
The film focuses initially on a a group of activists led by Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek) and Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu), who are arrested after firebombing a department store in Frankfurt. Prominent left-wing journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) is sympathetic to their cause and helps them escape. Thus was born the RAF (Red Army Faction), which carried out a series of robberies to fund their murderous campaigns of targeting police stations, newspaper offices, politicians and businessmen.
Germany's top anti-crime fighter Horst Herold (Bruno Ganz) tries to outwit the terrorists by first understanding what drives them, acknowledging that the government must try to address the social conditions which give rise to such lethal groups.
Most of the gang’s leading lights are killed or imprisoned, prompting the Interior Minister to prematurely declare the RAF case is closed. The terrorist attacks during the 1972 Munich Olympics proved that war was far from over.
The helter-skelter momentum then flags as the spotlight switches to the prolonged trial and a bitter falling out in Stammheim prison between Meinhof and Baader and Ensslin
The pace picks up in the final third when, as Baadar had warned, a new generation of RAF members led by Brigitte Mohnhaupt (Nadja Uhl) and Peter-Juergen Boock (Vinzenz Kiefer) unleashes a reign of terror which is even more ferocious and indiscriminate.
The performances are superb, most notably from Gedeck as a woman who was torn initially between her duties as a wife and mother and her revolutionary zeal, and Bleibtreu as the hot-headed, psychopathic Baader.
Disturbingly, the film notes a 1970s poll which found that one quarter of Germans—equating to 7 million people-- were sympathetic to the RAF.
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