Film, History

Film: The Baader Meinhof Complex

May 31, 2010

Here’s another eclectic piece of foreign cinema for you:  The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008), a historical drama documenting the rise and fall of a controversial left-wing terrorist organization in Germany during the turbulent sixties and seventies.  Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) is a left-leaning journalist whose writings put her in the path of activists Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Gudrun Esslin (Johanna Wokalek).  These descendents of the Nazi era have shifted to the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, and in protest of conservative government and American imperialism, they begin bringing awareness of Third World wars to the streets of western democracy.  At first a passive advocate for the cause, Meinhof risks her life and family to contribute hands-on to the group’s wild terrorist behavior, to considerable political effect and great personal consequence.

Slickly produced and well performed, The Baader Meinhof Complex is an interesting window into a troubled era, from a unique and different German perspective.  Essentially a group biopic, the film suffers somewhat from “biopic-itis,” in that it sacrifices narrative shape in the name of historical accuracy — something difficult to criticize, but that makes the film a bit of a slog, particularly in the later going.  The cast is uniformly good, but only Wokalek stands out.  I wouldn’t recommend this one to the casual viewer, but those intrigued by the era and the political angle may find it worth investigating.

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