Hearts, Minds and Changing Rooms

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Review of 'The Edukators', director Hans Weingartner

Jule has just been fired from her job as a waitress in Berlin. She is passionate about changing the world but something is not right. She confides in her flatmate Jan that she has been on endless demonstrations and wonders what difference it has made. Why should it be different for their generation when the endeavours of past rebels have only been appropriated by a system happy to make Che Guevara T-shirts?

Jan has a surprise for her. With the help of a third flatmate, Peter, he has been raising the level of the struggle. Kitted out in black with balaclavas and torches, they have been breaking into the unoccupied houses of the rich, not to steal, but simply to move their furniture around in an act of revolutionary changing rooms! Their calling card is a note that reads, 'Your days of plenty are over, you have too much money, signed, The Edukators'.

Then one of the break-ins begins to spiral out of control. The owner returns to his house and catches the Edukators in the act. With their identities revealed they are forced to make radical and rash decisions which culminate in them kidnapping their victim and holding him hostage in a countryside retreat. As the movie unfolds the relationship between the four of them develops and is complicated further by the revelation that their property-owning capitalist was once a revolutionary himself and friends with Rudi Dutschke, a German student leader in the 1960s.

It is possible that the film is a metaphor for the extinguishing of the 'fire last time' in West German politics. The Edukators ignore looking at a broad struggle involving all of the dispossessed and instead substitute themselves with individual acts of increasing violence and isolation. This mirrors some in the 1968 movement who responded to increased repression by turning to street fighting, a trajectory that ended for some with Baader-Meinhof and terrorism. Others followed Rudi Dutschke in what he called 'the long march through the institutions' by forming the Green Party. Just like the hostage they gradually surrendered their radical ideals for compromise with government and the system.

Writer and director Hans Weingartner describes it as 'a movie about the last ten years of my life - wanting to be part of a political movement and never really finding one that worked. I believe that we live in a time when young people crave political change but truly don't know where to begin. Perhaps our societies have grown so individualistic that a collective dynamic is no longer possible.'

For chunks of this film it feels like politics is nothing more than motivation for a caper movie. When the politics does kick in with the set-piece dialogue between captive and captors it is often clumsy and over-simplistic. The opposing worldviews just pass each other by and offer very little insight. The discovery that the capitalist is compelled to be capitalistic and is actually a nice bloke with justifications for his actions, seems to completely disorientate the young radicals.

Intended or not, there is one famous quote that stands above all others in defining this film. This is when the hostage reasons with his idealistic captors, 'Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.'

This worries me, not only as a 29 year old, but because the association of radical politics and youthful exuberance resonates through The Edukators.

Of course the author of that quote, Winston Churchill, undermined his pearl of wisdom by showing no heart at any stage of his life. The Edukators by contrast has plenty of heart - it is just unable to match it with brain.

Release date: 15 April