THE EDUKATORS (DIE FETTEN JAHRE SIND VORBEI) (2005)
Starring Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, Stipe Erceg, Burghart Klaußner, Peer Martiny, Petra Zieser, Laura Schmidt, Sebastian Butz, Oliver Bröcker, Knut Berger, Hanns Zischler, Claudio Caiolo, Bernhard Betterman, Sylvia Haider, Claudia Jakobshagen and Reiner Heise.
Screenplay by Katharina Held and Hans Weingartner.
Directed by Hans Weingartner.
Distributed by IFC Films. 127 minutes. Rated R.
It’s not easy to be a rebel in a world where rebellion is marketed. As one of the young upstarts here points out: How can you seriously try to change the world when Che Guevara shirts are sold in chain shops? If anarchy is fashion, then how can you really hope to bring about change? Or is it enough to set off little tremors in the status quo?
This terrific German import examines these questions. Jan (Daniel Brühl of Goodbye, Lenin) and Peter (Stipe Erceg) are long-time friends who want to be hippies, only they were born about thirty years too late. Still, they try to rage against the machine, protesting the exploitation of child labor, hanging posters and fighting the power.
There is one thing they do that they consider the most subversive, though. They will case a nice villa when a family is away, break into the place and rearrange all the furniture. They will turn tables on their sides, load knick knacks into the toilet, stick the stereo in the refrigerator. They never steal anything, however they do leave a vaguely threatening note which reads, “Your days of plenty are numbered” and they would sign it The Edukators.
It is an interesting, symbolic, but in the long run useless act – a tiny bit of emotional terrorism which really changes nothing in the bigger sphere. (In fact, I’ll give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt that they don’t know that their anarchic act was the punchline of a twenty-year-old Robin Williams joke.) However it makes the guys feel that they are in on the fight. Plus, the fear they feel when committing the acts is sort of a natural high.
Everything changes when Peter’s girlfriend Jule (Julia Jentsch) is evicted from her apartment and moves in with them. When Peter is out of town, Jan lets her in on their little nocturnal act. On a whim, Jule decides they should do it to a man named Hardenberg (Burghart Klaußner) who she owes a great deal of money due to an automobile accident. Jan is not comfortable with the idea, they haven’t staked the place out, they don’t even know for sure he is not home. However, he always had a bit of a crush on Jule, so he goes along with it.
It turns out to be a disaster for them. They make several mistakes and eventually are seen by Hardenberg, who recognizes Jule. In a panic they call Peter who helps them take the man hostage.
It turns out that Hardenberg was a hippie and an active rebel, who eventually as he grew older moved to the right. The film becomes a game of cat and mouse, with the older, more experienced man subtly pushing the young idealists’ buttons. Hardenburg is torn by the whole thing, he fears for his life and yet it makes him oddly nostalgic about his youth and the choices that he has made in life.
All of this turns into a taut psychological thriller. As the four get to know each other, a nice rapport builds, and yet towards the end of the film most of the characters do not trust any of the others. The subtle gamesmanship of the captive and his captor is fascinating to watch.
What we really learn from The Edukators is that idealism is fine as far as it goes, but not at the expense of common sense. (7/05)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 22, 2005.