Running to a solid two hours, German Hans
Weingartner’s film about the realities and ambiguities of capitalism
somehow warms to and rewards our expectations of German cinema. Jan
(Daniel Brühl) and Peter (Stipe Erceg) are more active than your
average socialist activists. They’ve progressed beyond pamphlets.
What they do is enter the houses of the rich (the villas) and
re-arrange their belongings but never steal—they are not thieves but
‘educators’. They try to educate the haves that their days of plenty
will soon be numbered.
When Peter goes off to Spain for a gig, his
girlfriend Jule (Julia Jentsch) winds up in an education session
with Jan. The villa they’re trashing turns out to be a Hardenberg’s
(Burghart Klaußner), an executive whose Mercedes Jule crashed and
owes €95,000. She makes the lesson personal. But alas, there are
complications. They have to return to the villa, only to encounter
its owner. With him injured, they panic and kidnap him. The foursome
ends up in the picturesque German Alps where they spend several
weeks discuss political economy.
That’s the plot in a nutshell, but as you can
imagine, it is very lively. The acting is good, as is the direction.
There are both contemplative silences and delirious speed. What
actually emerges is that the oppressed and the oppressors under
capitalism are two sides of the same victimised coin: sure one has a
much more comfortable life than the other, but in terms of
culpability, everyone is a cog in the machine. It is this final
point that is perhaps the most terrifying of all.
The disc has 5.1 sound and 16:9 ratio, so it’s a
good watch. Extras don’t extend beyond some stills and cast/crew
biographies and a trailer. My only criticism would be the length,
which turns out to be an endurance test and the music—I never did
like heavy metal. Oh, and can someone explain to me why all radical,
anti-corporate types must de rigueur
be heavy and committed cigarette smokers? I would
have thought the myriad contradictions would be clear to them!
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