Back in 2002 I saw a Gerhard Richter show at MOMA. Part of the exhibition was a haunting series of black and white photographs of the Baader Meinhoff Gang. Those images have stayed with me. I have a huge Richter print from that show, though not from the photographs that were part of the large Richter collection. So it was with some fascination that I watched this German film from Uli Edel.
It’s 1967, and world-wide student movements have states in turmoil. In the US, it’s the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground. The war in Vietnam is raging. All the iconic images of that war are on display. In Germany, the radical edge of the protest movement was formed around Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.
Director Edel forcefully demonstrates the far reaching sympathy that the gang had initially tapped into. The word “radicalized” is demonstrated here in several instances – so well that it’s not hard to see how these young radicals could turn themselves into the bombers and killers that they became. This is not to say the film is an apologia for terrorism, but there is a real underlying theme of understanding the root causes of civil unrest.
The acting is very fine, all played with fervor and flair. A dispassionate history lesson, told with passion.