This first note, has nothing to do with the actual quality of the film, but if you’ve seen any German cinema over the past 30 years, you’ll recognize many faces in this film. I’m not a German film aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but even I was struck by how many people I recognized. Here’s a short list.
- Bruno Ganz (who’s Swiss, but is clearly known for his work in Germany) was the star of Wim Wenders masterpiece Wings of Desire and, most relevant to the internet, played Hitler in Downfall, the memetastic film about the final days of the Third Reich. On that subject, has anyone ever made a remix where “Hitler discovers Bruno Ganz is going to play Hitler in Downfall?” That would be meta.
- You’ll recognize Martina Gedeck from The Lives of Others and Mostly Martha
- Moritz Bleibtreu was Manni in Tom Tykwer’s genius Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run.) He was also in Das Experiment.
- Alexandra Maria Lara was mesmerizing as Annik Honoré in the Joy Division film, Control.
As for the film itself, Baader Meinhof Complex is a freight train of a movie. It starts at a really high, intense note and doesn’t let up until the final credits. Because of that it feels much quicker than it’s two plus hour running time.
Telling the story of the Red Army Faction, a German terrorist organization, it’s a tough film to approach. What is one supposed to feel when watching this group bomb, rob and shoot their way across Germany? Sympathy? Disgust? Hatred? That conflict is really one of the keys to the success of the film. Especially living in this era with constant reminders of the reach of global terrorism he complexity of the viewer’s relationship with these, basically despicable characters bestows a fascinating burden upon the viewer. You’re almost forced to work out your feelings for these people. On one hand they’re a group of attractive, intelligent, idealistic youth (played by a bunch of movie stars) looking to change the world for the better- at least in the way they define “better.” On the other, they’re a ruthless terrorist organization driven to murder and mayhem by a thread of frayed logic. Logically, one kind of cancels the other out but as cinema it’s less clear cut than that, which helps drive the tension of the film.
Beyond that primary question, there’s much to like about this movie. It’s well acted. Bruno Ganz is especially riveting as Horst Herold, head of the Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Police Office,) the man ultimately responsible for hunting the gang down. It’s also impeccably paced. As I mentioned earlier it starts off at a very intense level and never really lets up. Years, crimes and locales fly by at a quick pace, but there’s never a sense of confusion or of disconnectedness. Ir’s clearly one river we’re on from start to finish. There might be some tributaries, but it’s a focused journey.