The Baader-Meinhof Complex - Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

The Oscar nominated Baader Meinhof Complex (best foreign language film from Germany) was bound to be made, and Uli Edel has done it. Not since Margarethe von Trotta’s The German Sisters (1981) has such a compelling film been made on the political violence of German youth in the late 60s and 70’s. It was a time of rebellion against the police state Germany had become and many decided to strike back with force. The Red Army Faction (RAF) was formed in 1976 and was behind several bombings, kidnapping and assassinations of political leaders. The key members were Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. The film traces the evolution of the group and their demise and secretly arranged execution in prison that was made to look like a suicide.
In the opening scene we learn of the early public attention Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) garnished for covering the pompous state visit of the Shah of Iran in 1967, representing a country of vast illiteracy and poverty. She witnessed the protests of young Germans against this visit who were then beaten and shot. Here it is implied that Meinhof is only a step away from acting on her ideals. As a journalist for the left wing magazine , konkret, she is shown in this film to have fallen prey to the ideology of the RAF. But in real life Meinhof had already made Bambule, a film about the ill treatment of young institutionalized women that she believed to be a microcosm of the new fascist post war Germany. So, a consciousness was already there, which made her receptive to the aims of the RAF.
Meinhof is shown in the film to have been the intellectual of the group and to have authored various statements that were issued to the public to explain the intentions of the RAF and also to recruit new members and gain acceptance.
Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) was the activist that relied on physical strength and was quick to react. Gudrun Ensslin Johanna Wokalek was equally instinctual. The glamorization of sex and violence in the first half of the film is followed by the cold reality of when the RAF are captured and institutionalized at Stammheim. After being systematically hunted, their destruction became a symbol of the power of German police to restore order. What Germany most feared was that the RAF would inspire German youth to rebel. Because of this they needed to be crushed in any way possible, which the film brilliantly conveys. Bob Dylan's lyrics at the end of the film, "the answer is blowing in the wind" describes how little Germany understood its youth and their rebellion. The Baader Meinhof Complex articulates the mind and muscle behind political violence and it should resonate deeply for those trying to make sense of terrorism today.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan, San Francisco

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/02/09
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