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Monday, September 14, 2009

Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex

Gerhard Richter - Gegenüberstellung

The movie has its weaknesses: maybe it's a tad too long; maybe it tries to cover everything that happened, and some aspects are presented poorly. However, I think it has two major merits.

Gerhard Richter - Erhängte

First merit: it tries to take no sides. To show just facts and to leave the conclusions for us.

I said it tries. Does it succeed?

October 18, 1977: Gudrun Esslin after the Death Night

It's difficult to answer. It is hard for a movie to take no sides, at least because young personages always inspire sympathy, even when they are committed to anything in the name of the revolution (whatever that means).

The police chief (played by Bruno Ganz) keeps on repeating that one should firstly understand their reasons, and I know it is true, only the guy says it too many times in the movie to be convincing.

But this is what the movie is trying to do: to understand the guys, to understand their primary reasons, to understand their evolution, in order to give the full account of the facts. Neither absolving, nor condemning, just giving the full account.

Gerhard Richter - Erschossener

And I think here is the second merit of the movie: the three leaders of the group (Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and Ulrike Meinhof) are exceptionally rendered. Of course, we don't know their real personae; but the movie shows brilliantly three different radical revolutionary typologies.

Andreas Baader
is the drop-out who loves the violence per se, while his girlfriend, Gudrun Ensslin, is the fanatic who believes in the necessity of violence: up to the end, beyond morale, normality, common sense. What she hates more is just normality, as she has the acute feeling that normality means stagnation, complacency for injustice, hypocrisy, philistinism.

Ulrike Meinhof (exceptionally played by Martina Gedeck) is the most complex case from all three, and the most tragic: she is not a fanatic - she just agrees to the reasons of fanaticism; the intellectual who gets more and more involved in the game, till there is no more way back.

Well, and what's the lesson for us? Why should it be a lesson?:) We come to the movie with our sides, we remain within our sides, as it is always.
Perhaps one can find the answer in the iconic canvases of Gerhard Richter: the master created the symbol, the icon for an important chapter of post-war Germany. This chapter of history has to be meditated and understood. Sine ira et studio, with neither hate nor passion. And so this movie (with all its weaknesses) is a necessary one.




  • I need to disagree for once with your analysis, Pierre. I at least did not get any clarity about the motivation of these young people who out of the success story of Germany emerged as the archetypes of violence and international terrorism. If I can somehow assimilate Ulrike Meinhoff with the leftist intellectuals of today, always ready to embrace the 'sexy' cause of the day but seldom superficial in analyzing the true nature and implications of the causes that they support, I did not find any explanation in the film to what Andreas Bader and his girlfriend were about. Just spoiled kids who found their way of protesting their mom and dad society in taking up to guns, bombs and kidnapping rather than smoking some marijuana and listening to Janis Joplin? Come on, there must be more than that.

    As I wrote in my IMDB notes after seeing the film, I was left with the sensation of a badly focused photo - the background is more clear than the figures in the close plan.

    By Blogger Dan Romascanu, at 2:42 PM  

  • ... I meant ... often superficial ...

    By Blogger Dan Romascanu, at 2:43 PM  

  • Dan, even in a success story there is a lot that can foment political radicalism (sometimes especially in a success story). What motivated the Parisian students in May 68? For people like Gudrun Ensslin the success story will always be perceived as an unacceptable compromise between an "etat policier" and a society of "philistines". In the same time, they will see the success story as an opportunity to act more freely: a success story includes democracy, it means also the liberty for anyone to act as she or he wishes.
    You will say it's crazy. There will be always a "crazy" minority, very radical and very determined; and sometimes they can change the course of history.

    By Blogger Pierre Radulescu, at 3:45 PM  

  • Wait a moment. I do not disagree with any of those and especially with the right of protest in a democracy. But there is a huge difference in my opinion between the students who took the streets and raised barricades in Paris in 68, and the minuscule minority in Germany and Italy who adopted terrorism as their way of protesting and changing history. Both are rooted in discontent and anarchism, their means are separated by the ravine between legitimate protest and crime.

    To get back to the film we are discussing, I did not get from the movie the image of Gudrun Ensslin the way you describe it. Probably the blurred photos of Gerhard Richter are a good illustration of my feelings :-) However, I saw the film a while ago, and maybe I missed stuff that could be revealed at a second opportunity.

    By Blogger Dan Romascanu, at 4:39 AM  

  • Richter is one of the masters of Photorealism; he starts from a photo and then creates a canvas, based on that photo, but representing his own universe.The same as Chuck Close, the other great Photorealist. I have put on the blog also the real photo of Gudrun as she was found hanged. Richter blurred his canvases on purpose, to express his ideas.

    It happened that I started my Washingtonian visits to art museums with a Gerhard Richter retrospective, in 2003. I saw there a portrait of Sadoveanu (!) painted by Richter; he started from a photo he had found in an encyclopedia.

    Now, talkig about Gudrun Ensslin, as I said in my post, I obviously didn't know any of the three so I do not know whether the movie depicts them as they realy were.

    But I think the movie showed very well three types of radical revolutionaries. And I was impressed because these three types can be found in any radical movement.

    The dropout who is violent by nature and embraces the radical movement to justify his violence; the fanatic who hates normality and believes that violence is necessary, the intellectual who comes from normality, but allies with the radicals.

    Okay, it seems to me that we should agree to disagree :)

    By Blogger Pierre Radulescu, at 10:29 AM  

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