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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Baader Meinhof Complex (review)

Oh, what a riveting mess! This sprawling portrait of the Red Army Faction, which literally terrorized West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is neither an apologetic for the anarchist gang nor a condemnation of it, but rather a fascinating exploration of the shift in the zeitgeist of that era, not only in Europe but, by unspoken extension, across the Western world as well as in the Middle East. Radical journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck: The Good Shepherd) is slowly wooed over to the violent ways of urban bomber Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu: Speed Racer), eventually throwing her lot in with him and his girlfriend/partner-in-crime Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek) as they attempt to push back against global imperialism, particularly as represented by Germany’s complicity in the American war in Vietnam, by bombing U.S. army bases, police stations, and other targets of official governmental authority: as the first generation to come of after post WWII, they’ve vowed never to let their nation succumb to fascism again (and they’re not wrong to be worried, as we see here). It all gets out of hand, of course, as they inspire others with less scruples; their policy of not attacking innocent civilians goes by the wayside, for instance. Implicit is the idea that these were passionate people concerned with a larger justice who were powerless to affect change in legal ways, so this was all that was left to them; explicit is the notion that the only way to stop terrorism is not by dismissing the perpetrators as unthinking evildoers but as people with a purpose, no matter how fervently one may disagree with them. Working from the nonfiction book by Stefan Aust [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.], coscreenwriter and director Uli Edel (whose last theatrical film was 2000’s kiddie flick The Little Vampire) crafts an urgent, energetic ride of a film that is intellectually stirring, and may be even more relevant today than it would have been 30 years ago.


MPAA: rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, sexual content, graphic nudity and language

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
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