22 June 2013

The Edukators

German-language, English subtitles

What happens when three young soldiers of the class war accidentally take a prisoner?  Jan, Peter, and Jule are working-class twenty somethings, each passionate about fighting corruption, injustice, and the values of consumerism, but with different means. Whereas Jule's placard-waving and protesting in the streets stays within bounds of acceptability, Peter and Jan go further.   Breaking into the homes of the rich, they rearrange their furniture  and leave the ominous message: Die Fettenjahre sind Vorbei.  The days of plenty are over.  Their actions are illegal, but do no harm other than rattling the cages of the powerful.   When Jule sees her peaceful sign-holding friends beaten in the streets, loses her job, and is evicted in quick succession, she's invited by Jan (Peter Bruhl) to join him on a nightly raid. She's thrilled, but it results in their being surprised by the too-soon return of one of their targets. With no time to think, they act --  and kidnap him, fleeing into the mountains.  There the revolutionaries and the fatcat live with one another as the kids grapple with what they should do next -- and with their consciences, for now they've gone far beyond their expectations. What does it mean to have a revolution?

As the four live together, they are forced by the virtue of interaction to see him less as a Class Enemy and more like a man -- one dangerous to their freedom, if he escapes, and one whose values they despise, but a man all the same. And for all their rage against the concentration and abuse of power, and for all of their petty acts of resistance, they are not vicious people. To hold him hostage and use media coverage to bring attention to their grievances is tempted, especially if they can get his wife to actually produce ransom money...but are they willing to pay that price? Their hold on the moral high ground is already tenuous, and they become even more uncertain as they talk with their foe, who reveals -- astonishingly -- that he, too, was once a class warrior. Their grievances are not new: another generation held them. That generation, the youth culture of the 1960s, once held every convention of society in contempt and sought to radically change it...but things change, and so do people. Or do they?  The ardent beliefs of his captors stir something within the captive (whose name is Hartenburg),  as he remembers his own youthful yearning for a better world, and wonders where he lost it.

I initially purchased this movie to both keep my ear for German tuned and to enjoy the passion and action of three rebels whose beliefs I have much sympathy for, and enjoy rewatching it ever so often just to witness the cross-generation conversation.  In this age of overwhelming corporate power, the abhorrent triumph of consumerism and profiteering over the human soul and anything graceful, a movie like this is satisfying -- not only in portraying people putting resistance into action, but not losing sight of the fact that even 'enemies' are not as different from us. We are all vulnerable.

You may recognize the lead actor, Daniel BrΓΌhl playing Peter, from Joyeux Noel and Goodbye, Lenin!