|The Edukators (2005)
Starring: Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, Stipe Erceg, Burghart Klaussner, Peer Martiny
Director: Hans Weingartner
It may be difficult for some to believe, but many of the best foreign films coming to America are from…Germany? But is it so hard to believe? German filmmakers have a rich history that can be traced back to the dawn of motion pictures. In 1927 director Fritz Lang unleashed his dystopian vision of the future with the silent film “Metropolis,” heralded by many geeks as the first science fiction blockbuster. Four years later the same director gave us the masterpiece “M”, a dark thriller about a child killer being hunted by the police that is still chilling to this day.
Fast forward to 1981 and we have the German U-boat drama, “Das Boot.” Before he became a hack, director Wolfgang Petersen gave us this masterpiece of drama and sheer claustrophobic terror. But it was in 1998 that German film began to show a new face to American audiences. With “Run Lola Run,” Tom Tykwer’s bold and kinetic film about a young woman trying to get her hands on 100,000 Deutschmarks before her boyfriend robs a supermarket; Americans began to see a new wave of quality German filmmaking. Soon after, “Nowhere in Africa” deservedly won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and more recently German films such as “Goodbye, Lenin” and the Hitler bunker drama “Downfall” have drawn critical raves.
This brings us to Hans Weingartner’s “The Edukators,” another impressive example of German filmmaking, albeit one infinitely more controversial than any other we have seen, with perhaps “Downfall” as the exception. “The Edukators” centers around three social activists living in Berlin. Frustrated that traditional protesting is not getting their message across or obtaining the desired results, they begin breaking into the homes of Germany’s wealthy. Not to steal, however. Once inside these homes, they rearrange the furniture and leave a message: “Your days of plenty are numbered.” Their idea is to create an air of uneasiness, to provoke a sense in the owners that they are being watched, and that they might not always be the “haves.”
Much of “The Edukators” is devoted to a conventional love triangle between the three main characters. When Peter takes a trip to Barcelona, his girlfriend Jule and his best friend Jan fall in love. Not very original, but it is when the three are forced to abduct an executive who walks in on one of their missions, that the film provides a provocative setting in which the three must resolve their issues.
It is at this point when “The Edukators” truly reveals its subversive tendency as well. Superbly written, the movie presents a compelling dialogue between the forces of capitalism and socialism, and how each impacts the world. Although it is fair to say the film leans towards socialism, and that one’s enjoyment of the film will probably depend on how far to the left or right they consider themselves, the film does make room for jabs at the imperfections in both systems.
Credit should be given to Weingartner for at least attempting to address the issue of what is considered moral in our society, but throw out the rhetoric and “The Edukators” is still a wonderful film. The three lead actors turn in poignant performances that make up for some overly-used plot devices and the movie is refreshingly unpredictable and suspenseful, with moments of heightened tension literally up to the last scene that leave one on edge. Certainly German film, as long as it stays at this level of quality, will continue to have a place in American theaters for many years to come.