You say you want a revolution

Uli Edel’s film Der Baader Meinhof Komplex is both fascinating and frustrating. It has some of the best actors Germany has to offer at the moment acting their hearts out; at the same time, it has a script that often feels like a badly edited Wikipedia article. I can imagine that the film becomes much more frustrating for those who’ve read the book it’s based on – I was in the lucky position to have known relatively litte about the RAF (Red Army Fraction, not Royal Air Force!) before watching it.

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex

What the script would have needed, more than anything else, is an editor: it is packed with too many incidents, as if the author felt, “This has happened so it would be wrong to leave it out!” That may be true for history books – it is less true for films, obviously. Too many scenes feel like they’re a repetition of what was shown earlier, repeating the same points over and over again. “Yes, we know that Andreas Baader was an immature, self-righteous, misogynist asshole,” we want to say, “We know that Gudrun Ensslin was too much in love with herself! Get on with it!” As a result this 2 1/2 hour film feels strangely short-winded. There is little in the way of a Spannungsbogen, as we get what amounts to “This happened, and then this, and then this…”.

At the same time, there are moments when the film (almost despite itself) settles into a storyline, and that’s when the actors take over. Especially the scenes in prison where the incarcerated heads of the RAF turn on each other and on themselves are, at their best, riveting drama. Especially Martina Gedeck, at least as strong a presence as she was in The Lives of Others, creates a fascinating potrait of Ulrike Meinhof slowly falling apart in prison.

It’s in those scenes that I wished the film knew what it wanted to do. Mere chronology may be sufficient (at best) for documentaries, but it doesn’t make for very good drama. With the same actors but with a sense of focus, it could be so much better. As it is now, it ticks all the boxes but fails to bring them together into something satisfyingly coherent and whole.

What it did achieve, though, and quite strongly at that: I now want to find out more about the RAF and the people and events involved. And I definitely want to check out what else Martina Gedeck has done.

(I was going to write lots more here, on the inherent risk of presenting terrorism as sexy if you’ve got young sexy actors playing terrorists, and on the apparent development from the first generation of the RAF into a copy of a copy of a copy, reducing the sparse initial greys into stark black and white, but if I did that there’d be another week before an update. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll write something about it next time.)

This is the one with pictures!

And what pretty pictures they are! Oh! Oh!

Okay, enough of that… it’s getting silly. What is there to talk about? Blood Simple, perhaps, which we watched tonight. A fascinating film to watch if you like les frères Coen, because it combines the “Ohshitohshitohshit…” tension of a James M. Cain novel with traces of the subversive humour that would come to full bloom in later Coen movies. Then again, I don’t particularly feel like talking about that movie. Go and watch it yourself, if you can keep yourself from constantly muttering, “Oh. My. God. Frances McDormand is so young!”

What else then? Nate Fisher’s funeral perhaps. It’s strange – when I first watched this episode about 1 1/2 years ago, I mostly felt numb throughout it. The tears only started to come halfway through the penultimate episode “Static”. (When the car pickup guy kicks in the crashed hearse’s window, that does me in completely.) This time, though, the aptly names “All Alone” really got to me. The way all the remaining Fishers, as well as Brenda and Maggie, were locked into themselves by their grief, rage and frustration. The way putting shrouded Nate in that hole in the ground seemed so final – even though this is Six Feet Under, where the dead appear to the living to cajole, taunt and sometimes, very rarely, if you’re lucky, offer much needed sympathy. Even Claire’s flashback to the day Kurt Cobain died (“Too pure for this world”?! Whatever it is you’re smoking, buddy boy, gimme some of that!) didn’t just feel embarrassing. Perhaps I’m just getting soppy and old.

Ruth alone

Or should I write about Deadwood? I’ve already said a lot about the tension that’s been building up since George Hearst’s arrival and immediate claim. It definitely feels like more blood will be spilled before the end of the season – and quite some blood has already been spilled. Not to mention other body parts ending up where they don’t really belong.

So, just one brief note about Deadwood: in addition to the dialogues, the world that is evoked, the storylines, the series’ feel for what the Germans call Spannungsbogen (there’s really no exact English equivalent, which I consider a much greater inadequacy than the lack of Zeitgeist or Blitzkrieg), I simply love the faces. They all tell stories, and they feel so eminently right.

George Hearst, looking for a new captain (preferably with two eyes)