Today’s culture class had us watching The Baader Meinhof Complex, about the early years of West Germany’s Red Army Faktion, or RAF (and features the guy who previously played the part of the romantic lead in Im Juli, but I digress).
I have words.
The film itself is, I thought, fairly well done, if horrifyingly violent. And I think it tried to offer food for thought and a multitude of perspectives from which to approach it. But I did not spend my time watching the film appreciating it from a cinematographic angle, and the only thought I had was how annoyed I was with the RAF characters, who spoke of imperialism and fascism while quoting Mao and calling each other comrade, who drew equivalences between every horror happening in the world, who answered violence with violence, and who neglected at any point to ask themselves what the connection between free love and bank robberies and taking hostages and the war in Vietnam actually was.
Compare the acts of the RAF to those of the Scholl siblings, the subjects of Monday’s movie. The Scholl siblings, who lived under an actual repressive regime, peacefully distributed written materials that directly addressed their problems with the government. The RAF took a plane hostage in order to exchange lives for RAF prisoners, who were in prison in the first place for blowing up buildings, allegedly because these buildings stood for oppression.
But maybe that comparison’s unfair. It was a different generation, a different time, etc. Look at Moscow in 1968. Its dissidents were either trying to hold the government accountable to its own laws, satirizing it through literature, or calling for a more free and open press and judicial system. The high water mark of Soviet dissidence was the assemblage of a handful of people in Red Square at noon against the militaristic invasion of Czechoslovakia. They unrolled a banner stating specifically that they opposed the invasion. And that was all.
There was a peacefulness to what they were doing, but I think the bigger distinction is that there was a pointedness. And a point, period. And they, like Sophie and Hans Scholl, didn’t run around calling themselves revolutionaries, because they weren’t trying to stage a revolution. They were trying to act in accordance with good conscience, because nothing, to them, should be above that. Not even their own consciences.
There is a scene in the great, great 1968 (I think) Godard film La Chinoise, which is about students living in a Maoist cell in Paris (I think it’s actually based on a play by Camus that is based on a novel by Dostoevsky, but, again, I digress), in which one of the, ahem, cell members is speaking to her professor on a train. And she’s saying that she wants to blow up the university and start over. And he’s just like, what are you going to put in place of the university? And how are you going to start over and educate people when you destroyed the educative forum?
And that—and Sophie Scholl, and the Russian dissidents, and the fact that I will never be able to properly articulate the distinction that seems so clear in my mind but never coming out of my mouth—is what I thought about while we watched The Baader Meinhof Complex.