There’s a lot going on in the German movie The Edukators. It’s a relationship movie about a love triangle. It’s a political film where some of the dialogue consists of characters expressing and responding to leftist political rhetoric about the immorality of global capitalism. It’s a crime/kidnapping drama.
And I’d say it’s decent in all three respects. The relationship part is mildly interesting but nothing special. The political speechifying (which I assume will be most people’s least favorite part of the film) is only a little phony and cringe-inducing; mostly it’s thought-provoking and at least a little interesting, and I agree with over half of it. The crime thriller elements are probably the best, though more so in the first half of the movie, which is more believable.
The storyline involves three German young people who are politically active leftists. Two are male and make their political statements by breaking into rich people’s houses, making a mess (a little vandalism, but really more symbolic than actually damaging), and leaving ominous notes denouncing the residents for their wealth. The third is the girlfriend of one of them, who falls for the other. She is suffering through demeaning jobs trying to work off a debt she incurred when she was driving uninsured and wrecked a rich person’s car. (The debt will take a good portion of her life to repay, even assuming steady employment, no major medical or other expenses, and continued very frugal spending—she’s already being evicted from her cheap apartment due to being so broke. Are there no bankruptcy laws in Germany? Or is this different because it’s the result of some kind of civil suit or something? It just seems odd that in a first world country you could be like an indentured servant for decades because of this kind of situation.)
Anyway, they end up breaking into the guy’s house that she owes money to, and then he returns home and surprises them. They panic and take him hostage because they can’t think of anything else to do with him, and they take him to a cabin one of their relatives owns out in the country, where they settle in and consider how to get out of this mess.
The best suspense of the movie is when they’re in the person’s house, and they don’t know and the viewer doesn’t know if they’re going to get caught. Their behavior strikes me as realistic. It ranges from cautious to reckless to amateurish to smooth to irresponsible to triumphant to scared to adrenaline-rushed, all of which make sense to me, given who they are and the situation they’re in.
When they’re confronted by the homeowner, again they react in a way I could believe. The events take them deeper and deeper into more serious crime even though that’s not really where they want to go, because the alternative is to pretty much accept getting caught for what they’ve already done. I could feel what it would be like in their position. (That’s interesting in itself, that I automatically identified with them and not the kidnapping victim.)
I found the part of the movie at the cabin to be considerably less realistic, mostly because they show zero urgency. I understand they want a chance to think about what to do, but that means a half hour, or overnight, or something like that. Instead, they settle in for a vacation. They cook and smoke and take walks and have their little romantic moments, and on and on. They engage in political debates with their captive and get to know him better. (He claims to have been a leader in the radical student movement of the ’60s, and therefore to sympathize with their politics even if he feels he’s moved past that—partly by growing up and partly by selling out—himself.)
I can’t imagine anything that is gained by this indefinite delay. All it does is increase the chances he’ll be missed and people will start looking for him. They need to make a decision, do what they’re going to do, and get their asses out of there. Instead they treat it as an extended camping trip, a chance to relax and get better acquainted with each other. And really they don’t even act all that concerned any more, compared to their (more appropriate) initial reaction back at the guy’s house.
I just wasn’t buying that.
As time goes on, they get more and more lax about guarding their captive. On the surface he seems to be genuine in his good will toward them and his respect for their political principles (though numerous little incidents and directorial decisions of when to go to a close-up of his face strongly hint to the viewer otherwise), and they seem to gradually trust him more and more on that score, but you don’t really know if either of these is true until very late in the movie.
The Edukators is slow in parts, and certainly I wasn’t engrossed in this movie the whole way. But to give it its due, normally a subtitled movie of this length (it’s a half hour to an hour longer than the average movie I’ve written about so far) would be much harder for me to follow and would be more of a chore to get through. Watching this was actually an OK experience. I could understand almost everything that happened, and I was at least somewhat interested in the characters, the action, and the political ideas expressed.