The German movie ,The Baader Meinhof Complex,” currently showing in the Hillcrest cinema, relives the crimes of a terrorist group called ‘Red Army Fraction’ (RAF), active in Germany between the 1960s and the 1990s. Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof were the two most prominent leaders of the RAF and saw themselves as revolutionaries in ‘the police state West Germany’. Their generation, born during or right after World War II, was hell bent on not letting something even remotely similar to Hitler and the Nazi Regime happen again and found the German society to be a prisoner of capitalism and a politically motivated press. Their criminal activities cost 34 lives and left hundreds injured. The movie successfully shows what terrorism can do to a country, but also what it does to the terrorists and how their fanaticism ultimately lead to their self-destruction.
To an Austrian, many of the actors are familiar faces. The roles were well-cast and the actors did a terrific job at portraying multi-faceted, some-what afflicted characters. Moritz Bleibtreu (‘Munich’), Martina Gedeck (‘The Good Shepard’), Bruno Ganz (‘The Reader’), Hannah Herzsprung and Heino Ferch are all household names in German cinema and theatre. Showing Baader’s anger and fierce commitment to the cause, Bleibtreu’s acting stands out. Bruno Ganz plays the head of the Federal Criminal Police Office with a spooky calm, understanding how and why the terrorists operate so well even his subordinates are worried.
The movie is definitely European, maybe even noticeably German – and not just because of the language! Nudity and violence are portrayed differently to American movies, almost in a matter-of-fact way. The violence is not glorified nor hidden, but rather shown for what it was. The style and setting sets ‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’ apart from how American’s show their history on film. America’s film society recognized the movie for its excellence with one Golden Globe nomination and one Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ in 2009.
Watching the movie almost seems as if it was supposed to be a two-parter. Even though the two thematic halves were closely related, the feel and setting are distinctively different. Running at 2 hours and 30 minutes, one is aware of its length. ‘The Baader Meinhof Complex’ might have left more of an impact on viewers had the two parts been separated.
Being a true story, the movie succeeds in mixing real news clips from that time with the fictional material. In some scenes, the viewers are placed inside the characters emotional world so well, one cannot help but feel either sympathetic or antagonistic towards the terrorists. An interest in German history or terrorism in other countries makes this movie worth watching, even if it is long-winded at times.