The Bottom Line
- Dramatizes an important and fascinating slice of twentieth century history
- Lots of documentary footage from the 1960s and '70s
- Attempts to show how terrifying terrorism is through filmed violence
- Indulges in romantic view of terrorism and 'radical chic'
- Violence can seem excessive and gratuitous, instead of meaningful
- Can seem plotless and meandering
- Directed by Uli Edel and written by Edel and Stefan Aust
- Features Martina Gedeck (as Ulrike Meinhof) and Moritz Bleibtreu (Andreas Baader)
- Nominated for a 2009 Golden Globe Award for best foreign picture (Germany)
Guide Review - The Baader Meinhof Complex
Edel's film relates events during the German Baader Meinhof group's early years. The group, which called itself the Red Army Faction, was formed by celebrated journalist Ulrike Meinhof, delinquent-cum-radical Andreas Baader, and Baader's girlfriend, Gudrun Ensslin, who also happened to be a serious student of leftist politics. Confrontations between the very small group and German law enforcement were dramatic and sometimes lethal; and Germans were fixated for years on questions about whether the state or the violent revolutionaries had the right idea in mind for the post-Nazi German future.
Phillip French in the Guardian thought the film did its subject justice, and more: “What makes this such a powerful movie is the factual nature of the exposition and the refusal to make easy judgment. It even risks a scene that invites us to experience the excitement of what it's like to be an urban guerrilla released from all social responsibility …”.
Peter Bradshaw, also writing in the Guardian, is less moved: The … film is a sprawling, episodic and interminable 70s period drama, ploddingly comparable to Steven Spielberg's Munich. All the cliches and hairstyles are present and correct. There are the parties, the arguments about socialism and the chaotic squats - which, confusingly, are almost indistinguishable from the relatively comfortable prison cells the terrorists are finally allowed, making it tricky to tell whether or not those concerned have been let out on bail. There are hairy guys and hippy-chicks in astrakhan coats, and what with the homemade explosives, the free love and the chants of Ho-Ho-Ho Chi Minh, it looks like Dr Alex Comfort's The Joy of Terrorism.
***As of December 2008, the film has not been distributed widely in the United States, but it should be in coming months.