I vaguely knew of the name ‘Baader Meinhof’ as a kid, and sort of (incorrectly) thought of it as a German version of the IRA. This film goes into incredible detail on the origins of the terrorist group Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF) in the late 1960s, founded by a number of young German men and woman, two of whom were ‘Andreas Baader’ and a well known journalist, ‘Ulrike Meinhof’. The film indicates, that initially, the RAF were thought to have the support of 1 in 4 Germans, 7 million people.
Fascinating and absorbing, the film documents the story of the RAF (or the Baader Meinhof Group as they were referred to in the press) and their activities through to the late 1970s – with the backdrop of unresolved conflict in the Middle East (between Palestinians and Israelis) and the US invasion of Vietnam. Watching the film, it was horrifying at how little some things have changed in the world.
Yet some things seemed so different. There is a striking scene where the RAF have gone to a terrorist training camp in the Middle East. Not only does the group refuse to be segregated into men and women, as is the Islamic custom, but the women sunbathe naked at the camp – in front of the Arab men who are also training there. It’s easy to forget that the politics of this period (of our parents and grandparents) was also about female sexual emancipation.
I notice that some critics have described it as an action movie. It’s not. It is graphically violent, but that’s because the historical events it covers were violent. Death and murder from a hail of bullets is not some pretty glorified slow-mo here.
The story is told in a bleak and dispassionate manner and on a large scale, (there are several impressive sequences), and I found it to be utterly compelling with uniformly superb performances from all the cast.