Based on Stefan Aust’s book of the same name, The Baader Meinhof Complex tells the true story of the Red Army Faction (RAF), an ultra-violent terrorist organisation dedicated to the overthrow of what they perceived as the rise of fascism in the 1970s, including US imperialism in Vietnam and the growth of a police state in then West Germany. Led by leftist journalist turned radical, Ulrike Meinhof (Gedeck) and anarchist poster boy Andreas Baader (Bleibtreu), the RAF were behind some of the worst terrorist atrocities of the -70s, including kidnappings, shootings, bombings and assassinations.
Director Uli Edel (Last Exit To Brooklyn)’s stunning film covers a tumultuous decade in post-war Germany, beginning with the riots that broke out between student protesters, Iranian supporters and the police around the visit of the Shah of Iran in 1967, events which saw student Benno Ohnesorg killed by a police bullet. Following the attempted killing of student leader Rudi Dutschke by a young fascist supporter, the young would-be revolutionaries attack the offices of the Bild newspaper, a vocal opponent of their ideals and methods, and before long, the RAF’s leaders are fugitives from the law.
Edel’s greatest achievement here is not in painting the terrorists as insane radicals, but rather as human beings, showing them at fun as well as at war, and noting the personal sacrifices they made for their beliefs, with many, including Meinhof, forced to leave behind their children as they planned their campaign of terror from locations as diverse as Rome and a paramilitary training camp in Jordan.
Filmed in many of the real locations from the time, including the chilling courtroom climax in Stennheim prison in Stuttgart, this fascinating film explores the birth of modern terrorism from both sides of the coin, the insurgents themselves and the government employees (led by the ever-excellent Bruno Ganz) who brought them to justice. The Baader Meinhof Complex is historically accurate, superbly acted and tautly directed, examining how idealism turns into zealotry in a highly absorbing, engrossing manner that remains passionate without ever being preachy.
Director: Uli Edel.
Starring: Martina Gedeck, Moritz Bleibtreu, Johanna Wokalek, Nadja Uhl.
Running Time: 144 minutes.
Extras: History in the Making featurette, Score, Filmographies, Trailer.
For fans of: All The President’s Men, Munich