CINEMA: News Weekly
'The Baader Meinhof Complex' - film whitewashes notorious terrorist gang
, June 13, 2009
Len Phillips reviews the new German film, The Baader Meinhof Complex (rated MA 15+, with English subtitles).Let us begin with a quiz. The Baader-Meinhof Gang was a terrorist group that, during the 1960s and 1970s, blew up buildings across West Germany causing many deaths. They assassinated politicians, judges and, famously, the head of the German Employers Federation. They poisoned political life, and this in a country that was divided into its free democratic half on one side of the Iron Curtain and a totalitarian Communist state on the other.
Now a film about these people has just been released under the title, The Baader Meinhof Complex
So my questions are these: will a film about terrorists support the terrorists or oppose them? Will the film denounce these people as a bunch of lunatic psychopathic killers, or will it find every excuse under the sun for what they did? Will their final eradication be seen as a blessing or instead as yet more evidence of the existence of a repressive state? Are their actions seen as important early steps on the road to eventual revolution?
Don't be silly. Do you really need me to tell you the answers? It's a movie, for goodness' sake. It's a product of the "arts" community. It's been put together by the same kind of fools who joined and supported Baader-Meinhof in the first place, and is made to appeal to the fascist totalitarian mindset of many on the modern left.
You'll recall there was a war in Vietnam to stop the Communists from the North from taking over the infinitely more free and prosperous peoples of the South. Since the North's victory in 1975 we have seen exactly what kind of government the Communists imposed, so nobody can plead ignorance on that score. It should now be a matter of personal recrimination and soul-searching for any '60s radical who opposed the defence of South Vietnam to have been complicit in handing that benighted country over to the murderous Viet Cong.
It is the same again with the despised Shah of Iran, who also makes a cameo appearance in the film. He was a typical repressive monarch found everywhere in the Middle East, although in many ways better than most. But since his fall from power in 1979, he has been replaced by the ayatollahs. Does anyone seriously see this as progress? Are the Iranian people better off? Is the world a safer place?
Yet, despite what we know today, the film-makers' sympathies lie entirely with the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Their depiction of the terrorists and the German state as just two morally equivalent sides of the same totalitarian coin is quite sickening.
Take what I think is a not untypical reaction to the film, this from David Stratton on ABC television's At the Movies
"The increasingly hysterical atmosphere, the hatred the radicals have for right-wing newspaper baron Axel Springer and the ruthlessness with which both sides prosecute their beliefs is riveting stuff. As the leaders of the movement are jailed or killed, a new generation takes over."
Let me just for a moment dwell on "the ruthlessness with which both sides prosecute their beliefs is riveting stuff". Just exactly what beliefs are the civil authorities of the German state seen to be prosecuting?
They are that the free press and open debate must be defended; that people should be allowed to go about their business without being blown up by terrorists; and that murdering judges and elected politicians is not to be tolerated.
To react to this enforcement of the rule of law as if the German government in the 1960s and '70s represented a return of the Nazis, and as if violent protest were the only means to resist an encroaching authoritarian nightmare, is the complete opposite of the truth.
The Baader-Meinhof Gang were the Nazis. They were the brownshirts. They were the ones trying to impose a totalitarian state. That the German government took the steps it did to close down their operations can only be applauded.
But I have to agree with David Stratton's dictum: "As the leaders of the movement are jailed or killed, a new generation takes over."
This was easily the most disturbing aspect of the film and perhaps the most accurate. Early on, Baader-Meinhof and their crew are sent to Jordan for terrorist training with the Palestinians, and from then on the Palestinian war on Israel remains an important theme. The massacre at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics of 11 Israeli athletes and a West German police officer, for example, is shown as one of the events of the moment.
The concluding scene of the film is a tableau of a new generation of German terrorists who speak wistfully about the future. As the camera pans towards the closed-up shutters that hide that future from us, we very faintly hear a Middle Eastern melody coming from outside.
The unmistakable point is that the torch lit by Baader-Meinhof would be handed on to the likes of al Qaeda.
And if you think that there is any sense of impending dread in that brief moment, you don't know very much at all about the movie industry and the audiences it attracts.