Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, Docudrama; Rated B. Director: Uli Eidel.
Johanna Wokalek as Gudrun Ensslin
“WHAT’RE YOU REBELLING AGAINST, JOHNNY?”
“WHADDYA GOT?” MARLON BRANDO IN “THE WILD ONE.”
This film is the story of the founding members of a West German terrorist organization called the Red Army Faction. It is better known by the names of two its founders, Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck). The film centers around the original founders but many of the bombings, robberies, kidnappings and murders were committed by second and third generation persons calling themselves members of the organization. Organizationally the individual cells were anonymous to each other so often the founders didn’t know who was doing what. The movie also stars Johanna Wokalek as Gudrun Ensslin and Bruno Ganz as Dietrich Koch, the philosophical, police mastermind who brings many of the members to trial. The actors actually resemble the living persons
Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck).
The faction believes itself to be Marxist-Leninist in ideals but as urban guerillas in tactics and strategy. They are of the generation after the Third Reich who see that many of the Nazi fascist elements are still in powerful positions in post war Germany. Fascism must never be allowed to take root again and they see themselves as the spark that will enflame the public against this authoritarian aspect of German democracy and establish a communist state.
When the police ruthlessly put down a student demonstration in support of Iranian exiles protesting an official state visit by the Shah of Iran and his wife, a student is shot and killed. The original group forms as the Red Army Faction to combat this injustice and other perceived fascist acts. (If the group could have seen how Iran turned out after the Shah perhaps they would have rethought their entire raison d’être.)
(After the fall of East Germany it turns out the student was shot by a Stasi officer.)
Later another high profile communist sympathizer is assassinated by a zealot inspired by a right wing newspaper, Bild-Zeitung, run by Axel Springer. The Springer building is later bombed in retaliation.
From the outset it is apparent that these people are blind to reality and are creating false demons in their minds. Obviously, as West Germans, they should have been aware of the crushing authoritarianism of the East German regime.
However their focus is on the policies of the United States in conducting the Vietnam War and supporting The Israelis in Palestine. These policies are supported by the West German government which also allows American and NATO bases to exist in West Germany. Of course they over look the fact that Stalin had positioned twenty thousand tanks on the other side of the border poised to pour though the Fulda Gap into West Germany if a shooting war broke out between the East and West.
Another delusion these people suffered under was that here were numerous people who would rise up and over throw the existing government in support of their cause if they could provoke a massive government crack down on their group. This justified the 296 bombings, kidnappings, murders, hijackings and other terrorist acts against innocent people, businesses, Nato bases and governmental entities from approximately 1968 tom 1993. In 1998 the group was formally disbanded
This is an action film and the numerous terrorist acts are depicted graphically. The lives and attitudes of these middle class, misinformed, spoiled children ( Gudrun Ensslin’s parents were a teacher and a minister for instance) are examined and reveal their self centered misguided, callous idealism. Ulrike Mienhof, an established, well educated, journalist abandons her two young daughters to pursue the terrorist agenda. The exception is Andreas Baader an arrogant violent criminal and draft dodger. Gudrun his girlfriend is more radicalized than he and she is appears as an intellectual leader along with Meinhof and others. However this examination does not create sympathy for the group or their goals only disgust for their naive bravado.
The film is well directed and acted and one suspects the rough editing was inspired by the classic docudrama “The Battle of Algiers.” If it was it is a worthy try but no one has ever come close to the immediacy and credibility of that film except perhaps Costa-Garvas.
The story is a tragic one for the West Germans as well as the terrorists and their families. The final outcome will reveal how the Sixties and Seventies were anarchic not just in West Germany, but in the U.S, Italy, Japan and elsewhere when young people fell under the spell of utopian communism or other pie in the sky ideas and turned to terrorism as a means of political expression. It wasn’t all love and flower children during that period.