THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX (Uli Edel, 2008)

Beginning in 1967, Uli Edel’s Der Baader Meinhof Komplex traces the generation of the violent activist group that upheaved Germany in the 1970s. It both explores the militaristic faction’s German roots and relates its existence to contemporaneous radical activity elsewhere in Europe and the U.S., and even (though less convincingly) relates this to current outcrops of “terrorism.” Written by Bernd Eichinger and Uli Edel, the director, from a book by Stefan Aust, it unfolds as the description of a ghastly war marked by police and other state violence, Baader-Meinhof reprisals, and so forth, back and forth: a cumulative portrait of horrors and counter-horrors—a bloody mess. A Bonnie and Clyde of late twentieth-century political history, it is facile, unfocused, tedious—and heartless, and remarkably dishonest. It is fine to view critically both sides of a raging war-at-home, to show the equal horrors of their reciprocal political dance. But that is not the tack that Edel’s film takes. Rather, it plays tit-for-tat by nicely “balancing” these horrors, that is to say, evening them out. Bereft of morality or political conviction, it aims to please by disgusting all, by drawing everybody in.
     The late François Truffaut counseled contempt for Anatole Litvak’s Anastasia (1956) on the grounds of its contempt for us, the audience. Call me Truffaut. Everyone within eyesight of this blog: Express contempt for Edel’s film! Edel et al. have violated ground that is sacred because it is soaked in human blood. And for what have Edel and his team done this? Career advancement, and that old box-office bang.

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