The Baader Meinhof Complex

2008 [GERMAN]

Action / Biography / Crime / Drama / History / Thriller

IMDb Rating 7.4 10 34870

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May 12, 2020 at 04:52 AM



Alexandra Maria Lara as Petra Schelm
Bruno Ganz as Horst Herold
Tom Schilling as Josef Bachmann
Moritz Bleibtreu as Andreas Baader
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
1.34 GB
German 2.0
23.976 fps
2 hr 29 min
P/S 1 / 25
2.76 GB
German 5.1
23.976 fps
2 hr 29 min
P/S 5 / 13

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Liedzeit 8 / 10


First of all this is a very important film. Just like the other "Big" film by Eichinger "Der Untergang" it confronts the German audience (and the world should it care) with some aspect of German history that people should know about. In this case the "myth" of the RAF. To everyone who lived through the seventies in Germany it is clear that the influence of the RAF on Germany can hardly be exaggerated. I was a kid but my impression at the time was that both sides were wrong. There was a constant fear of terror coming from the terrorists but also from the state. (People did not get jobs if it was suspected they were "left".) So to make a blockbuster film, even if it does not really explain the motives of the main characters involved, at least gives us some facts. Not everyone is prepared to watch documentaries or read the book by Aust, but everyone should have some thoughts or maybe discussions on the subject.

Okay, but does it succeed as a film? Not entirely. The actors as everyone agrees were excellent, the cinematography as well. You do think you are in the seventies. That in itself is amazing. The action scenes are done splendidly, especially at the beginning the riots during the visit of the Persian Shah which culminated in the shooting of a student which in turn was, at least to some extent, the origin of the rise of terror. Of course the film is episodic and there are too many characters in it, most of them are not introduced in any way and ten years of complex history cannot be told in an altogether satisfying way. But the film succeeds in giving us a sense of what was going on. The producer, Bernd Eichinger has been accused of vanity. Which is a funny thing. Of course, he is vain. He has the duty to be vain as long as he also feels a responsibility to make movies that try to tell something. And the challenge, he feels, is to say it to as many people as possible.

Reviewed by ChrisWasser 9 / 10

Better than most critics want to admit

I agree with the other comments on the following points: the film does indeed concentrate on the culprits and their actions in a documentary way (as opposed to an interpretation of the RAF's ideas and motivations from a clear-cut political standpoint). Although the victims DO appear they are not characterized more closely; the only representative of the state is Horst Herold (head of the BKA), politicians do not show up at all, the media appear only in the shape of Springer, konkret and Spiegel and even the lawyers (Haag, Croissant, Schily, Ströbele, etc.) are merged into only one (fictitious?) character. I for one do agree with this approach and if you are prepared for it you probably can live with it too. In any case, despite all the chases, shootouts and explosions it hasn't become a mere action-film.

What's more problematic is that the film follows the book by Stefan Aust VERY closely. Therefore the dramaturgy is more similar to "real life" than to a classical feature film (e.g. there are many changes in pace, several climaxes are distributed over the course of the film and a proper arc of suspense is somewhat missing). "Fortunately" real life offered a culmination of events with the Schleyer kidnapping in the "German Autumn" 1977, so that the film ends in a reasonably satisfying way. Nevertheless the end credits come a little abruptly.

The second problem is that the film tries to show virtually ALL events from the book (only some minor incidents like the Mahler detention, Peter Urbach, the burglaries in registration offices in order to steal blank passports or the visit of Jean-Paul Sartre in Stammheim are missing) so that it needs to squeeze 10 years of history into 140 minutes. The result is a film with breakneck speed at some points. The better scenes (e.g. the training camp in Jordan or the lawsuit in Stammheim) are obviously those where the film catches breath, calms down and takes its time for the actors to shine.

The quality of the acting ranges from good to fantastic (with very few exceptions like Alexandra Maria Lara, who is nothing more than wide-eyed again and who thankfully doesn't even have dialogue). Especially Martina Gedeck and Johanna Wokalek are sensational. It is THEIR film and the conflicts in Stammheim which led to Meinhof's suicide are acted Oscar-worthy. But Michael Gwisdek (Ensslin's father), Jan Josef Liefers (Peter Homann), Sebastian Blomberg (Rudi Dutschke), Nadja Uhl (Brigitte Mohnhaupt) and Hannah Herzsprung (Susanne Albrecht) are also very good.

The production values are excellent too. A lot of locations, a great deal of main and supporting roles, hundreds of extras, good special effects (mainly explosions) and a set design and costume design which creates a very coherent 70's atmosphere: you can see that the film cost a lot of money. Every cent is on the screen.

I didn't like the choice of music that much. Deep Purple's "Child in Time" is always great to hear, but the rest (Janis Joplin, The Who, Bob Dylan) is just too mainstreamy and unimaginative for my taste (but probably also very expensive). Why not use MC5, Ton Steine Scherben or Ennio Morricone's "Vamos a matar, companeros"?

Now I'm looking forward to the reactions and reviews from other countries, who probably don't know this part of German history very well. In the US I expect the criticism that there are too many naked people, too many swear words and even more cigarettes (every one in BMK smokes everywhere and at all times), in order to distract from the politics of the film ;-) "Der Baader Meinhof Komplex" isn't the masterpiece on the history of the first generation of the RAF that I had hoped for in my comments on "Todesspiel", but altogether it is a very suspenseful, fascinating, densely narrated and well acted film. Hopefully it will not be the last word on the subject, but it succeeds in giving the audience the basic RAF knowledge on which future (less neutral, more opinionated) movies can build their stories.

Reviewed by K2nsl3r 7 / 10

Entertaining but Somewhat Empty

This film captures much of the historical tensions that existed in 60s-70s Germany (and world at large) by focusing on one of its most visible "phenomena", the so-called Baader-Meinhof Gang, which was also called, even beyond the reign of Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, the Rote Armee Fraktion or RAF. The struggle between left-wing terrorists and the established political and state apparatus, mediated through the perception of the masses via mutual propaganda, makes for an interesting story and an important saga in Europe's confrontation with the limits of liberal democracy, and of the populace's flirtation with bloody acts of terror.

This film tells the story in its crude general details, in the course of about 2½ hours. It focuses largely on three figures: Andreas Baader (portrayed as a rash control freak), Ulrike Meinhof (shown first as a timid reported and later a ruthless organizer of violence) and Gudrun Ensslin (the lover of Baader and a determined fanatic). Many minor characters pop in and out, and at least 4 or 5 countries are visited in the course of the group's exile and international reach. Many shots are fired, many bombs exploded, many victims ("guilty" and "innocent") assassinated, and many plans hatched and botched.

Overall, the film does a pretty good job at carrying the story forward at a rapid pace. At no point did I lose touch of the essentials of what's going on. I found the movie to be eminently easy to follow and a pleasure to watch. The best part of the movie is the first half, or maybe first two-thirds, during which time the focus in on the sympathetic figureheads (Baader, Meinhof, Ensslin). By the time they are in prison, the story is driven (as it was in real life) by a new generation of fighters, who are comparably less interesting and whose motivations remain a mystery. Not only that, but I thought that the ending of the movie was highly unsatisfactory. The last half an hour of the film is a real mess. It's not catastrophic, but it's still a huge step-down from the well-paced storytelling of the rest of the movie.

Now, the movie can easily be faulted for being a superficial exercise in crowd pleasing. It focuses only on the barest of motivational factors. It doesn't care for depth or subtlety. People are portrayed as one-dimensional and events flash by so fast that we don't have time to reflect on what we see. Action is favored over thought (but maybe this aptly represents RAF's philosophy?): there are chase scenes, gun fights, bombings, sieges and a few orgies. Overall, the movie is a loud exercise in simplistic historical narrative. For example, we get the obligatory news reels of Nixon, MLK, the War in Vietnam and the student riots of '68... There's nothing new to be seen or heard here. Not even the actions of the Baader-Meinhof Gruppe itself are explicated beyond what everybody who has read anything about the group already knows.

Still, there are many things that speak on behalf of the movie. For one, all the actors do a very fine job indeed. From Bruno Ganz as the head of the police hunt to all the youthful and anarchic terrorists, the cast carries the film from beginning to end. Martina Gedeck as Ulrike Meinhof does an excellent job, and her character has also been given the most depth and complexity of all the RAF members. There are a few caricatures, but mostly the failures of character development in the movie have to do with the lack of time given to each character on screen. As others have pointed out, the sheer massiveness of the scale of events and the extensiveness of the timeline means that the movie cannot delve into any particular aspect of the story at any length. The actors do a fine job, however, and all the sets look authentic: the mass rallies organized by Rudi Dutschke and the violent demonstrations between the students and the cops (all very early in the film) are very effective in depicting the mood and reality of the era. The beating of the students is a harrowing image that leaves nothing for imagination.

Speaking of the conflict between authority and rebellion, I think that the true strength of this film is precisely in its non-ideological and non-preachy tone. It offers a certain amount of reciprocal faulting between the pro- and anti-Baader-Meinhofians, and it certainly condemns the anti-civilian actions of the group, but it gives Bruno Ganz a few definite lines that summarize the essence of the conflict - something to the effect that "even while condemning, you have to understand the real causes of terrorism". This sentiment, while hardly new or deep, is an important one in a movie that otherwise could have been turned either into a Bonnie and Clyde romance or an exercise in retrospective character assassination. And make no mistake, all these people are portrayed in less than flattering light. Still, some amount of humanity is allowed to shine through, and this is what makes the movie SLIGHTLY more than just another empty gesture in the perpetuation of a historical mythos.

It is an entertaining, and very well made movie which doesn't offer much depth but, in its simplicity and straightforwardness, offers material in its pure density and lets the audience make up its own mind... Too bad that it ends so suddenly and unsatisfactorily as it does. That's a shame, because the movie could have been great. Now it's only entertaining.

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