Movies love turning political issues into interpersonal, and especially generational, matters. In Hans Weingartner's moderately entertaining The Edukators – the German title translates a slogan used in the film, Your Days of Plenty are Numbered – we hear a familiar explanation of the state of the contemporary Western world, particularly its youth component.
The generation of the 1960s (according to this account) was wild, radical, anarchistic, idealistic. But now those ex-fighters have become staid, disillusioned, middle-class parents, and their kids are largely apolitical because they have seen the fire of their parents' youth turn to ashes.
This strikes me as a dramatic-sounding load of nonsense, a handy justification for political inaction. But without this premise, however woolly, The Edukators would make precious little sense.
It is the story of three glamorous young people, Jan (Daniel Brühl), Jule (Julia Jentsch) and Peter (Stipe Erceg), who become politicised.
They may be 'urban terrorists', but of a highly benign variety. As edukators (note the radical spelling), they skilfully break into the homes of successful citizens, rearrange the furniture, and leave notes containing slogans like "you have too much money".
This is the best way to make capitalism tremble? The most extreme political act this Gang of Three can dream up is to plunge the televisions of Europe into darkness for a few minutes. What next – a well-designed but subversive website? (Presumably the only reason Weingartner avoided this is because the spectacle of nerds typing furiously into keyboards remains resolutely uncinematic.)
If the politics seem a little tame, the film itself is even more so – a far cry from gleefully destructive movies like Claude Faraldo's Themroc (1973) or Dusan Makavejev's Sweet Movie (1974). In the single bold plot move, the trio is compelled to take a businessman, Hardenberg (Burghart Klaussner), as a hostage. Little do they realise that he was a radical himself back in the good old days. So the generational melodrama starts churning again.
Shot in digital (which makes an eyesore of the frequent nocturnal scenes), The Edukators tries to balance its comfortably right-on message with an extremely simplistic Jules and Jim-style romantic intrigue. (The climactic 'threesome' here is shown even more discreetly than in Bertolucci's The Dreamers .) Near the end, Peter proclaims that the time has come to throw away "bourgeois morality". The film would have been a lot better if they had thrown it out twenty minutes into the story.
© Adrian Martin May 2005