A well told tale of idealism, contradiction and generational disconnection.
Jan, Peter and Jule are living out their rebellious youth. They are united by their passion to change the state of the world. Jan and Peter become The Edukators, mysterious perpetrators who non-violently warn the local rich their "days of plenty are numbered." Complications follow when vulnerable Jule ends up falling for both young men. Reckless choices result in danger. An operation gone wrong and what was never intended to be a kidnapping brings the three young idealists face-to-face with the values of the generation in power.
The Edukators is a well told tale of idealism, contradiction and generational disconnection. I went into this film purposely not reading anything about it because I didn’t to prejudice my thoughts. As I screened the film, I was amazed at how genuinely likable all the main characters are. Even though this film has a twist that is very prevalent in European films (by that I mean “a twist�? in general and not just that this one is the same as other movies), I still feel that this movie makes many valid and interesting points. There were times that I felt that things got a bit too preachy, but that as only in the beginning as the characters were establishing themselves. As this movie progressed, it became apparent that this film isn’t just about one set of ideas. I slowly realized that it was showing many sides, while eventually tossing it’s hat into one of them. Hans Weingartner has made a tale of younger people who cannot accept the life that has been created for them (or conversely, that they’ve created for themselves). As a result this film looks at the issues of what has brought them to their present state, what they think they need to do about it and what are the consequences of doing something about it.
Jan (Daniel Bruhl) and Peter (Stipe Erceg) are two friends who share an apartment and break into people’s homes. They aren’t burglars however. They simply rearrange the furniture and leave a cryptic message that says �?Your days of plenty are numbered.�? The hope is that this will get rich people to think a little more about what they have; to actually have a conscience about the fact that as they live it up, others are living in squalor. Things get complicated when Peter goes on a trip and he asks Jan to help his girlfriend Jule (Julia Jentsch) clean up her apartment from which she is being evicted. They start talking, growing closer and it is apparent that something is going to happen with them. Jule tells Jan about an accident she was in that has put her $100,000 euros in debt to wealthy business man. After talking more, Jan tells Jule about what he and Peter do and that they call themselves The Edukators.
Intrigued Jule convinces Jan to help her break into the person’s house to who she owes the $100,000 euros. After rearranging the furniture and throwing a sofa into the pool, they both fall in and it is here that there relationship starts to get physical. This is interrupted and they must leave the house. Sadly, Jule leaves her cellphone there and they must go back and retrieve it. It is here that things get complicated because Hardenberg (Burghart Klaubner; the owner of the house and the man holding the debt over Jule) comes home. They knock him out, call Peter and together they decided to kidnap him away to Jule’s uncle’s cabin. It is here that the story of The Edukators really takes foot because each character is forced to look at their own thoughts and personal conflicts. What eventually happens is that all the characters grow together. We come to find out that Hardenburg isn’t that much different than Jan, Jule and Peter are. They soon realize that they are similar to him, and then there is the whole dilemma of Jan and Jule’s tryst. While this film seems to have two endings, it’s final subtitle says it all, �"Some people never change.�"
The cast of the movie was phenomenal. I find that European actors are usually pretty solid, but in a movie with such a tiny cast, that is so dialogue heavy and it can’t rely on different locations because it mainly takes place in a log cabin, I was doubly impressed with all of the actors performances. At first I didn’t know how to take the character of Jan. I was sure that in some ways he was a loose cannon and would ultimately be everyone’s undoing. Daniel Bruhl plays him with such a subtle tenderness, that by the end of the movie, you realize that he is the most sensible out of everyone. He is quiet yet when he talks he has big things to say. His actions are very deliberate and you always get the sense that if the situation is left up to him then everything is going to turn out just fine.
As Jule (Julia Jentsch) never plays this character as the love torn woman who can’t decide which man is best for her. You get the sense that her mind is made up and overall she just seems to be a better fit with Jan. I loved that when you saw her as a waitress, she wasn’t catty with any of the customers. She seems to be idealistic, radical but also quite aware that she does have a job to do and that that job will give her at least some money to survive. My favorite scene is one where Hardenberg is trying to talk her into letting him go. She listens and without being threatening, casually informs him that he has misperceived her. It is done so subtlety that it’s almost unnoticeable. In fact, she never even mentions her conversation to the other guys, which I took as a sign of hope amongst people who commit the acts that these characters do.
Stipe Erceg (Peter), plays his role as the good looking guy with a strong sense of nuance in his performance. At first I got the sense that he was just along for the ride. He was having fun with Jan until he would eventually get serious and move into living a more “straight life�?. Then, as the film progresses, we are given subtle hints that his character might ultimately be the one to bring this “party�? to a bloody close. Yet, this movie goes deeper then that. Rather then try and make things happen just to drive the narrative, I got the feeling that this film was written up to the point of all characters getting to the cabin, and that’s when the discussion started. I was expecting either Peter, Jan, Jule or Hardenburg to do something that would lock these characters into this situation. Peter eventually shows through all of this that he indeed does have a lot of substance, and that what he and Jan started with The Edukators is really something he believes in.
Hardenberg (Burghart Klaubner) was a bit harder to get a read on. To me, all this means is that Klaubner is a very good actor. Sometimes he plays his role like a stiff, other times you see him actually getting back to his “revolutionary�? roots and still other times you see a man who is deeply conflicted about who he is. There are times you think he has escaped, only to realize that he has taken a walk to stare at the mountains around him. It seems like he can leave anytime he wants, yet he has chosen to stay. In the end he does bond with The Edukators, but there is a limit to that and everyone involved seems to know this.
Ultimately, I think The Edukators makes very valid points about the world and where it’s heading. People are getting tired of the constant media barrage, the medicines that take care of your problems and the way we have to work like dogs it seems without ever getting ahead. While some of the talk eventually sounded a bit redundant, I think that overall The Edukators is a film that really has something to say. I hope it can find a large audience and I hope that younger people who would really get something from this film will be open-minded enough to give it a chance. It’s funny, in this day and age it seems like people need to know something is good before they try it. Something tells me it would be easier if rather then read reviews or council other people’s opinions, they just took a chance and believed in their own judgment. Such is the underlying themes of a movie like The Edukators.
The film comes open in New York today. Look for it in the Los Angeles area next Friday.
CLICK HERE for more information on the film including the poster art, images, and the trailer.