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EDUKATORS, THE (Fetten Jahre sind vorbei, Die) (director/writer: Hans Weingartner; screenwriter: Katharina Held; cinematographers: Matthias Schellenberg/Daniela Knapp; editor: Dirk Oetelshoven/Andreas Wodraschke; music: Andreas Wodraschke; cast: Daniel Brühl (Jan), Julia Jentsch (Jule), Stipe Erceg (Peter), Burghart Klaussner (Hardenberg); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Antonin Svoboda/Hans Weingartner; IFC Films; 2004-Germany/Austria-in German with English subtitles)

“Much too didactic, obvious and simple-minded in its action story involving a radical act.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Austrian writer-directorHans Weingartner’s rambling political drama is much too didactic, obvious and simple-minded in its action story involving a radical act to evoke anything but a bland response to a modern conundrum about the generation gap and gap in wealth distribution.

Angry young Berlin activist Peter (Stipe Erceg) is first seen in a street demonstration against sweatshops distributing leaflets. We next discover that he and his mate Jan (Daniel Brühl) take out their frustrations against the upper-class by invading their luxurious homes and rearranging their furniture and valuables, and leaving behind the message “Your days of plenty are numbered” or “You have too much money.” They leave their signature on the messages as “The Edukators,” and this so-called radical act is meant to scare the bourgeois into thinking they are not safe wherever they live or how much money they have.

Peter leaves town on business and asks his trusted pal Jan to help his girlfriend Jule (Julia Jentsch) fix up her apartment. Jule is a harried waitress working on the cheap for slave wages, who is in debt for a 100,000 euros because she totaled a Mercedes owned by millionaire industrialist Hardenberg (Burghart Klaussner) and had no insurance. When Jan falls for the chick and blurts out what Peter and him do for fun in secret, she can’t resist invading Hardenberg’s mansion with the reluctant Jan. When they return because dopey Jule left her cell phone in the joint, Hardenberg appears and after overcoming him the two call Peter to help. It results in the kidnapping of the industrialist and taking him to an alpine hideout, but they can’t figure out what to do with him. The heart of the film has them talking with their fat capitalist pig captive (who it turns out was in his student days a former radical SDS commune member before he matured into such a model citizen success story), as each side outlines their beliefs and the industrialist ingratiates himself with the rubes. It flirts with showing they have more in common than they expect but shifts gears and goes off into a love triangle story (trying to imitate Truffaut’s Jules and Jim), as Peter discovers Jan and his chick are getting it on and he goes ballistic.

The narrative is built around plot-twist tension, but with so many twists coming everything looks tired and forced. The three radicals appeared more jerky than anything else, while the complacent industrialist fit the bill of a slimeball and an untrustworthy stereotypical capitalist with no heart. Everything seemed to drag on for far too long, and the cop-out conclusion didn’t serve the film too well.

This sort of agitprop political film was done with somewhat better results by Michael Haneke in his 1997 Funny Games.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”