Friday, November 03, 2006

The Edukators

I watched The Edukators last night, and though I enjoyed the acting and it is well shot, I was left feeling very dissatisfied.

The plot goes like this. Jan (Bruhl) and his best friend and flatmate, Peter, make their stand against capitalism by breaking into the homes of fat cats, moving their furniture around and leaving messages, such as "The days of plenty are numbered". (The German title is Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei, or The fat years are over.) Peter's girlfriend, Jule, gets involved after she is thrown out of her flat. She can't pay the rent because of the enormous debt she is burdened with after writing off a businessman's mercedes in an uninsured car. She and Jan break into the businessman's house; it's an unplanned caper and things get complicated. The upshot is that the three of them end up kidnapping the businessman (Hardenberg) and holding him in Jule's uncle's isolated chalet for several days. There's a love triangle to work out since Jule and Jan have fallen for each other, and the relationship with Hardenberg develops. It turns out that he was a 68er who was something of a revolutionary leader as well as resident of a free-love commune. He seems to enjoy the relinquishment of responsibility in being kidnapped and makes no effort to escape. They finish by taking him back home, Jule's debt waived. Even though he breaks his promise not to send the police after them, the threesome have anticipated this and moved on and settled somewhere else. In the same bed.

In their discussions of ideology and the state of the world, Hardenberg's strongest defense of his life is that old saw: if you're under 30 and not a "liberal", then you have no heart; if you're over 30 and still a liberal, then you have no brains. That's about it. For the rest, he reflects grimly how compromise creeps up on you with marriage, children, the children's education, debts and career "until one day you find yourself voting conservative". The glimpse of what he used to be fills him with regret and nostalgia. Nevertheless, since he goes back on his word, we must assume that, once home, the cell doors slammed shut again on him.

So you're left with this choice between 3-in-a-bed radicalism and selling out, between maintaining your rage to bring down the system and bowing your head, closing your eyes in the knowledge that if you dare open them it will only be to recognise your shame and the meanness of your spirit. It is such a shallow perspective and perhaps its greatest weakness is that it permits no means of growing up, of living with another person, of having children and bringing them up, and then having grandchildren, of doing a decent job well and helping out a bit looking after a neighbour or a local park. It doesn't acknowledge this reality, which is the reality of most people most of the time. In this perspective, you don't become an adult, you never become someone who has to choose between a little better and a little worse rather than between Liberation and Slavery, the Real and the Inauthentic. You must be Che Guevara or a pig with designer glasses. It is an adolescent perspective and is determined to remain so.

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