Der Baader Meinhof Komplex

Germany

Synopsis

June 1967. Prominent left-wing journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) is shocked by reports of a violent demonstration in Berlin, during which a student is shot dead by a policeman. When Meinhof realises that her husband is having an affair and her marriage has disintegrated, she takes her two children and moves to Berlin. Here she becomes actively involved in the anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist student movement. Increasingly though, she feels that by merely reporting about events she will never bring about actual change. As a result, she is impressed by the resolve of Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek) who, together with her boyfriend Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu), set fre to a department store in order to protest against the Vietnam War. After Baader’s arrest, Meinhof helps to free him from prison, which means she must cut all ties with her previous and even leave her children behind. Together with Baader and Ensslin, she founds the “Red Army Faction” (RAF). Their intention is to spearhead an armed resistance fight against the political status quo in Germany. After military training at an El Fatah camp in Jordan, the group robs banks and carries out a number of violent and deadly attacks. The death toll starts rising and with it the hysteria of the press. The head of the Federal German Police Force, Horst Herold (Bruno Ganz), builds up an enormous police apparatus. In 1972 he manages to capture Baader, Ensslin and Meinhof as well as other RAF members. Only in captivity, the RAF leadership develops actual political power. More and more people support their cause and the RAF enlists a number of new recruits including Petra Schelm (Alexandra Maria Lara) and the new leader figure Brigitte Mohnhaupt (Nadja Uhl). Through hunger strikes and further attacks, the RAF increases the pressure on the government, thus rocking the very foundations of German democracy. But while Meinhof, Baader and Ensslin have turned into radical icons, inside the group the tensions are rising. In May 1976, Meinhof commits suicide inside her prison cell. The violent confrontation between the German state and the RAF spirals out of control in the autumn of 1977. Six weeks after the kidnapping of a prominent industrialist, a plane with 86 German tourists on board is hijacked. Herold’s frenzied search for the industrialist remains fruitless, but the plane is eventually freed by a German anti-terrorist squad. The morning after the liberation of the tourists, Ensslin, Baader and another RAF member are found dead in their cells. As an act of revenge, the industrialist is executed by the RAF.

Director's Statement

This is the story of our generation and it has occupied me like no other. It was the greatest tragedy in post-war German history. I recalled what I could remember of the time; read everything I could find on the subject. I also talked to former terrorists. When you have conversations with former terrorists their minds can play tricks on them. 30 or 40 years after the actual event, some of them remembered things in a way that diminished their own involvement and guilt. In terms of my visual approach, I wanted to avoid everything that’s typically associated with a genre movie. Authenticity was key. We only enhanced the natural or available light rather than adding dramatic “movie light.” We avoided dolly shots or contrived camera angles. Most of the film was shot with a hand-held camera, giving the actors as much freedom as possible. Whenever possible, I filmed at original locations. In fact, filming at Stammheim, where the original RAF trial took place, we interrupted a current trial: tellingly, it was against Al-Qaeda members. Of course, the terrorists went about their business with incredible brutality. But didn’t exaggerate the shoot-outs. We showed what was listed in actual police reports. This film is the third part in a trilogy about violence.It began with CHRISTIANE F., which is about violence against ourselves. Next came LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN, which is about social violence. And finally THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX about political violence.
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Uli Edel

Written by: Bernd Eichinger

Produced by: Bernd Eichinger

Cinematography: Rainer Klausmann

Make-Up & Hair: Waldemar Pokromski

Main Cast: Moritz Bleibtreu (Andreas Baader), Martina Gedeck (Ulrike Meinhof), Johanna Wokalek (Gudrun Ensslin), Niels Bruno Schmidt (Jan Carl Raspe), Jan Josef Liefers (Peter Homann), Nadja Uhl (Brigitte Mohnhaupt)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Actor 2009
  • European Film Academy Prix d'Excellence 2009
  • People's Choice Award 2009
  • Feature Film Selection 2009