Rebels in Search of a Cause By Ricardo Cota

in 7th Miami International Film Festival

by Ricardo Cota

Attitude, not revolution, is the keyword to understand the bombastic and controversial Austrian filmmaker Hans Weingartner’s second feature film. It is a sincere dive into the contradictions of modern rebels and old revolutionaries, which made audiences at the Miami International Film Festival think about politics, love and loyalty. The film shared the audience award for the World Cinema Competition with The Overture, by Thai director, Itthisoontorn Vichailak, and Red Dust, by Tom Hooper.

The original title says more about the film than its American translation. Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei means “your days of plenty are numbered”. This is one of the messages on the notes that the shy Jan (Daniel Brühl, Good Bye, Lenin!) and the effusive Peter (Stipe Erceg) pinned to Berlin millionaires’ well-polished cabinets. Both of them are free activists, two protestors inspired by a blend of anarchism, communism and idealism, who break into the town houses of the elite not to steal expensive belongings, but to sarcastically re-arrange them. They hope to unnerve their materialistic foes, or at least startle them into awareness. Maybe they are ingenuous in their actions, but it is unquestionable that they are finding a way to struggle against the social unfairness and desperate for ways to make their mark on a heedless capitalist world, something that seems not to be of concern to most of their contemporaries. When a break-in goes awry, however, they must tackle two problems: one political, in the form of a rich hostage, Hardenberg (Burghart Klaubner), who was once a radical, and another personal, in the guise of a simmering love triangle between them and Jule (Julia Jentsch), a girl they both adore.

The accidental kidnapping leads the three lovers and Hardenberg to the mountains, where the political and sexual discussions become deeper. Hardenberg is not the capitalist villain he appears. To the youngsters’ surprise, he was a member of the SDS in 1968, lived in a commune and practised free love. So he expresses his reasons for changing his way of life and becoming a millionaire owner. The quarrels among them demonstrate the basic conflict of the middle-class activists: to continue fighting or to accept the status quo. Some movie reviewers saw The Edukators as a German Jules and Jim for the modern anti-capitalist. This is an exaggeration. Julia, for instance, is far from Truffaut’s Catherine, defined by Anette Insdorf as “definitive Truffaut goddess”, who represents “all things to all men”. The similitude resides exclusively in the love triangle. Comparisons could be made with The Dreamers , directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, although the characters movements are the opposite. While the Italian filmmaker, a man from 1968, is worried basically about the sexual question, the younger director Weingartner focuses his film on the political. It seems that the young Germans should learn sex from Bertolucci. On the other hand, Bertolucci, and the old revolutionaries, should listen to the edukators’ lessons about political attitudes . The only truth, for both of them, is that ate 60’s questions are far from being solved.