Revolutionary Problems: The Baader Meinhof Complex

Revolutionary Problems: The Baader Meinhof Complex

It feels like there were two films, within just a few years of each other, that dealt with the Baader-Meinhoff Gang and its political quandary. For those not tremendously familiar with the group, listen to the Clash for long enough and you’ll figure it out. The band’s off handed reference to the terrorist group won’t assuage sell-out shouters, but still, a radical thing to mention for an ensemble on CBS Records.

Either way, the fictionalized story related in the Baader-Meinhof Komplex was strong enough to warrant a spate of awards nominations during 2008. The film didn’t take home hardware, which might account for the relatively low profile it still deals with. Well, that and all the anti-government stuff.

Going back to the late sixties and early seventies, the film’s plot extends from American involvement in foreign wars and the country’s insistence on engaging with questionable political allies to suite national interests. Kinda messed up that we’re still dealing with that, huh? At the time, though, Western Europe took a more revolutionary approach to protesting. France hosted some upheavals and while May ’69 wasn’t a complete game changer, the riots did serve to impassion a new generation of politically minded folks.

Germany, around the same time the States had pulled out of ‘Nam, but still had a hand in the Middle East, hosted the Shah of Iran and his wife. The Baader-Meinhof Komplex ostensibly uses that visit to bound into radicalism. Ulrike Meinhof, one of the Red Army Faction’s founders, wrote a series of potentially explosive missives taking public figures and the Shah’s wife, specifically, to task. In hindsight, the initial scribblings don’t seem revelatory. But considering he drastically different media landscape, it was. However strongly worded those writings were, though, Meinhof and the rest of the RAF eventually launched into a string of well planned and executed bank robberies, political killings and kidnappings.

A few folks, Meinhof included, landed in jail and were amidst trial when jailed RAF members started kicking off. The prisoner’s conditions became a subject of contention, with daily court wranglings becoming more and more difficult to control. Eventually, someone connected to the trial was kidnapped by RAF folks who demanded freedom for their comrades. A plane got hijacked and you can imagine what happens next.

For those of you – myself included – not overly familiar with RAF and German politics from the time, reading up a bit before watching this wouldn’t hurt. And since the ending doesn’t go anywhere, reading might actually be a requirement. Entertaining film, though.