The Baader Meinhof Complex

A biopic of notorious urban terrorists, The Baader Meinhof Complex (Der Baader Meinhof Complex) explains how some Mao-quoting German opponents of the American misadventure in Vietnam morphed into urban terrorists. Directed by Uli Edel, the film begins at a nudist beach in Germany, thereby hinting to filmviewers that many conventions were being broken during the 1960s. The next major scene, also in 1967, portrays how a peaceful protest of Germany’s support for the American intervention into the Vietnamese civil war becomes violent when police mercilessly attack those in the street, reminiscent of Nazi strong arm rule. Journalist Ulrike Meinhof (played by Martina Gedeck), who has been covering the group led by Andreas Baader (played by Moritz Bleibtreu), tries to explain the rationale for the protest on television but discovers that the political establishment does not want a reasoned discussion, preferring to treat street protest as illegitimate perhaps because that’s how the Nazi movement started. After the police crackdown, however, Baader’s group finds a new enemy—the fascist police and the political establishment that support violence against the democratic process of debate, discussion, and protest. Soon, Meinhof, forced to choose between advocacy reporting and joining the urban guerrillas, prefers the latter role. Meanwhile, police rethink strategy, mindful of the causes of the rage of the Baader Meinhof Gang, but too late for police chief Horst Herold (played by Bruno Ganz) to prevent many violent acts, which ultimately result in 35 deaths. The group is arrested and put on trial, an opportunity to articulate their views in court and gain support from a new anti-establishment generation. How the urban terrorists ultimately come to an end in 1977 is the most unpleasant part of the film. Filmviewers seeking titles at the end to explain what developed in later years will be disappointed. As a biopic about real people and real events, based on such sources as the 1987 book The Baader Meinhof Group by Stefan Aust, the Political Film Society has nominated The Baader Meinhoff Complex as best film exposé of 2009. MH