Baader Mienhof Complex

By Ashley Hillard

The post WWII generation of West German youth sought to do things differently. An extremist group was born in this turbulent time that called themselves the Red Army Faction (RAF). This remarkable film based on author Stefan Aust’s book captures the personal stories of the leaders of this notorious group, Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck), Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek). Andreas and Gudrun were lovers and at the core of the group that sought to end American Imperialism and out the German government members that supported America. Ulrike starts out as a socially and politically active journalist and mother that transforms into a full member of the RAF, going so far as to give up her children.

At 150 minutes, the movie runs a bit long, but is captivating as all of the actors bring to life the controversial people they portray. Both violent and sympathetic, the RAF members use violence as a means to get their point across, causing extreme reactions from the public and among members of their group.

Admittedly I was unaware of the RAF until I watched this movie. After seeing it, I felt well informed about the group’s motives and in-fighting as well as each member’s struggle to do what they felt was right. It is a gripping portrayal of political upheaval and the inner workings of a group that used terrorist methods to do what they thought was right for society as a whole.

One of the strongest aspects of the film is the way in which it presents the story in a morally gray area, allowing the audience to see both sides of the conflict and the violence the RAF group was subjected to and the deaths they caused. The members are humanized and villainized in some scenes, going to extremes with often strange logic to support their actions. Director/writer Uli Edel and writer/producer Bernd Eichinger have done a fantastic job with very difficult material.