Violent idealism of '60s German radicals

Posted: September 11, 2009

Like the Weather Underground in the United States, West Germany's Baader Meinhof group in the late 1960s was made up of leftist radicals who - fed on Trotsky, Mao and Che - decided that violent action was the only recourse against a political establishment they deemed imperialist.

Uli Edel's The Baader Meinhof Complex offers an electrically charged portrait of the Red Army Faction (RAF) founded by a band of college intellectuals, idealists and writers. While the fashions (miniskirts, go-go boots, leather jackets) may look cool, and the cast exceptionally photogenic, this tense and bloody reenactment doesn't glamorize or romanticize what the RAF revolutionaries did: bombings, bank robberies and kidnappings that left innocent citizens, as well as government figures, lawmakers and police, dead.

Spanning almost a decade, from the RAF's birth in 1967 out of a protest rally turned riot to subsequent waves of RAF members that took the group to even more militant extremes in the 1970s, The Baader Meinhof Complex captures the heady idealism, headlong intensity and ultimate disillusionment experienced by its members. Children of the Nazi generation, ashamed of their country's recent past, Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and his journalist partner, Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) joined forces with Gudrun Ensslin (the wild-eyed Johanna Wokalek) to form the core of the RAF. Over time, the ranks expanded and changed, with terrorist training camps in Jordan and a new, more radicalized ethos.

If Edel's Oscar-nominated film drags in its final 40 minutes, it's a function of the director's fidelity to the facts - and the fact that the founding trio (and the film's stars) have become prisoners of the state, confined and confused. But The Baader Meinhof Complex still beats with a strong pulse, depicting both the lure of the radical life and the despair that comes when ideology gives way to human failings and needs.


Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.

com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://www.philly.com/

philly/blogs/onmovies/.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|