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The Baader Meinhof Complex
Stars: Moritz Bleibtreu, Martina Gedeck, Johanna Wokalek, Nadja Uhl and Bruno Ganz
Director: Uli Edel
Scriptwriters: Uli Edel and Bernd Eichinger 
German language---Subtitled
Vitagraph Films/Constantin Films
Rating: R for themed material, violence and language
Running Length: 150 minutes

The 1970’s was a time of turmoil in the world. The Vietnam War was going on, there were riots in the U.S. and the 18-and above crowd were protesting in many countries. Some, just to protest, but others to “change” the world to their idea of what the world should be. The trouble with this notion is, that it seems good on paper, but in reality, in your group,  you deal with people and their emotions, some of which don’t come to the forefront until it is too late and you are in too deep.  Such is the story of the Baader Meinhof Complex, later known as the RAF (Red Army Faction.) There is a charismatic leader (sound familiar?), a group who blindly follows this leader (getting more familiar?) and then actions against the community that begin as pranks and end as out and out murder (really familiar now?) The country here is Germany and history does repeat itself, even to the very end.

The story of the Baader Meinhof Complex is told in three ways. First, there is Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu), who, with his faithful girlfriend, Gudrun (Johanna Wokalek) are part of a group that is against the government for its involvement in the Vietnam War and association with the United States. From student riots during a visit by the Shah of Iran, to throwing bricks, to Molotov Cocktails to getting guns, this group is in the headlines. Their actions catch the attention of journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck), who is married and with a child. She begins to cover the story, making a name for herself both with the government and within the Baader group. Eventually, she comes to believe in their purpose, leaves husband, takes her children and goes underground.
The second part of the film alternates between Meinhof’s story as she gets further and further into the group, but is shaken at their increasing violence. However, she still partakes in bank robberies to finance their operation. To them, this is like Robin Hood, robbing the rich to help the poor, except the poor is actually gang expenses. No guns, they first decide, but  a gang member secretly has one, it’s fired, and away they go in obtaining firearms. Another story is added and that is of the police (headed by Bruno Ganz as Horst Herold), trying to catch the group, now know as “Baader Meinhof.” 
The last third of the movie is what happens when group members are eventually captured, their life in prison (luxurious by our standards, but boring to them), their trial, famous hunger strikes and the rise of an extension of the gang that is more violent than Baader Meinhof. As Baader says, “The next generation breeds more violence and so it continues.” It’s not exactly what he wants.
The Baader Meinhof Complex is wonderfully done, including storyline, dialogue, acting, photography and soundtrack. You are right there with the group, looking over their shoulder and wanting to say, “Don’t do that,” but they go ahead without a thought. It is brought out in the movie that this is the generation after the Holocaust and they want a better Germany, but still revert to violence to get it. The fast track is the only way they comprehend. 
Acting is right on target including Moritz Bleibtreu as Baader, who has a wild eye, wild temper and is kept in check by his ever-present girlfriend, Gudrun, well played by Johanna Wokalek. She gives the word “faithful” new meaning. Martina Gedreck’s “Ulrike Meinhof” is an enigma to the government. They respect her writing, but can’t see what she is doing with this group. We see that she is rather shy and works better behind a typewriter, though, confidence with the gang enables her to rob banks. Hers is the sympathetic figure and what a waste, you think.
The setting of this film, the 1970’s so like a museum setting, as to detail. Hair styles, clothing, furniture---it carries you back to this time of dissent. Uli Edel’s direction strives to show both sides of the story. The group’s trying to solve what they perceive as problems and a police state and the government trying not to use violence, but being forced to, to protect themselves. This idea continues in the world today. The film is over two-and-a-half hours long and could have been trimmed, such as in one less celebration after a successful operation, but you get the message. It is anarchy and only the young think they have the answer.
Copyright 2009 Marie Asner




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