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The Baader Meinhof Complex



Founded by self-described urban guerrillas Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof, Germany's Red Army Faction was the Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army and righteous outlaws of Bonnie and Clyde combined — robbing banks, planting bombs, shooting cops, and assassinating judges for the better part of the decade that followed the convulsions of 1968. Directed by Uli Edel from Bernd Eichinger's screenplay, The Baader Meinhof Complex is a sweeping, hectic docudrama. Despite a large cast, only the three principals are individualized. Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek) make a charismatic couple — she's a fiery fanatic; he's a crazy hipster. As the journalist gone native, Martina Gedeck's Meinhof is a tormented liberal who takes the existential plunge — and becomes an object of media fascination — when she decides to escape with the duo after facilitating Baader's 1970 jailbreak. The events are clear, but the politics are obscure, and the film lacks the claustrophobic power of Kôji Wakamatsu's parallel epic, United Red Army. From an early scene, in which Berlin cops allow Iranian thugs to attack peaceful demonstrators against the Shah, to the final corpse-dump of kidnapped industrialist Hanns Schleyer, the movie has an undeniable sweep. "Why do new terrorist units keep emerging? What motivates them?" someone asks the police chief (Bruno Ganz), to which he answers, "A myth." The Baader Meinhof Complex dramatizes that myth with surprising success even as it fails to illuminate it.

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