The Edukators is a sociological thriller about three young anti-capitalists who get in way over their heads after a botched break-in. Peter (Stipe Erceg) and Jan (Daniel Brühl) are a pair of idealistic young wannabe revolutionaries, living in near squalor in the centre of Berlin. In the evenings they scope out large houses in the suburbs which they break into. Rather than stealing what they find inside, the pair instead moves the furniture and expensive consumer items around, messing with the minds of the rich inhabitants and leaving a note saying something along the lines of “Your days of plenty are coming to an end”. They call themselves ‘The Edukators’. With Peter in Barcelona, Jan becomes friendlier with Peter’s girlfriend Jule (Julia Jentsch) after the pair had previously been rather standoffish with each other. Jule explains how her life is being ruined by a debt owed to a rich man following a car crash and Jan decides to do something about it, bringing Jule into ‘The Edukators’ without Peter’s knowledge.
The Edukators is a fascinating thriller which bought out the old Commie in me. I was on the group’s side, finding myself nodding along to their rants about consumerism and third world debt while I sat on my leather sofa, watching my flat screen TV. The film bought out something in me which I’ve lost in recent years, my youthful anger at the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry but these days my anger is focussed at religion and stupidity rather than poverty and injustice. This movie bought that back.
The film is shot on digital cameras which gives it an earthy, almost Dogme style. It looks cheap and grubby and the handheld style works to create a sense of really being with these people. In one scene we see Peter and Jan driving and instead of having two cameras on them, capturing each side of the conversation, the single camera swings from one to the other as you would do were you really listening to the conversation. The style, added to the subject matter made me feel engaged and part of the proceedings. The first part of the film is set in the run down streets of central Berlin and looks fantastic. Berlin is by far my favourite European city and its measured inner city decay is captured wonderfully by director Hans Weingartner’s camera. The second half finds beauty elsewhere, in the more naturally stunning surroundings of the Bavarian Alps.
There is a failed break-in around the half way mark which brings a forth person into the film and into the group. This turning point creates several problems for the central trio and raises questions about their judgement, their morals and what they really stand for. The group dynamic shifts several times once the film reaches Bavaria and I found each shift, glance and revelation to be fascinating. This fascination was heightened by political and sociological discussions with the new forth cast member, a man with differing views and opinions to the other three. He formed the basis of natural progression, perhaps where the other three would find themselves in the future. It’s a well known fact that the majority of people become more right wing as they age and the film invokes the famous quote “A young person who is not a liberal has no heart, an older person who is still liberal has no brain”. It’s a quote I’ve often thought about myself as a still very liberal person hurtling towards thirty.
The chemistry and relationships are really interesting throughout the film and the changes impact on the audience’s views towards the characters. I also found that the almost reverse Stockholm Syndrome was really absorbing too. It was an idea which I liked to see explored as the three younger cast members found themselves slowly swayed by the reasoning of their older compatriot while desperately sticking to the logic and passion of their own political convictions. Some of the film’s best scenes are quiet, round the table discussions about ideology and injustice.
There are other scenes though which are just as good but are more up tempo. The introduction of the forth character is exciting and I panicked for the others and there is a scene right at the end featuring men at a door which made me actually shout “Oh no” at my TV. I think this shows how invested I was in the character’s ideals and personalities. The film’s real strength though is the changing dynamic in the group.
The acting is terrific from all three leads and the film helped further my belief that Daniel Brühl is one of the actors of his generation. His grounded, level headed and idealistic performance is something that I really bought into. His indecision with the new feelings he uncovers also causes great tension in his performance and this permeates the film. You actually believe that he believes the ideology he is preaching, even though he is in fact probably a very well off man himself. Julia Jentsch has an innocence to her and she brings that to her role. She is probably the character most in the dark about what’s happening but also the one with the most to lose. Her indecision and new found love are a joy to watch. Stipe Erceg brings a lot of passion and an uneasiness which creates tension. You’re never quite sure how he’ll react to a situation and this brings a lot to the film. Burghart Klaußner has a steady intelligence and knows how to play the other characters off against each other and I thought that he went about this perfectly.
The film’s ending had me on the edge of my seat as I couldn’t be sure how it would pan out. I worried for the central trio and was saddened and even more worried to see the forth member back in a suit and outside the other three’s apartment. The final scene put me at ease though and made for a nice conclusion to a well written story which fired up my political beliefs. The Edukators is a deeply engaging movie with its heart in the right place. It explores some great ideas and produces some accomplished performances while the perfectly timed inclusion of Jeff Buckley’s rendition of Halleluiah rounded off a very good film perfectly.