The Baader Meinhof Complex at the London Film Festival





Uli Edel's film covers a scant 10 years of German history. It begins with the 1967 Berlin protests against the Shah of Persia, which left an innocent student, Benno Ohnesorg, shot dead by police. And it ends with the 1977 Mogadishu hijack and the murder of the industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer. What a decade.

A brisk - and controversial - tour through these events, it gets off to a barnstorming start. Some terrifically well-staged sequences, mixed with newsreel footage, delineate the ructions spreading all over the map - Vietnam, Bolivia, Prague, Paris, the Middle East - which convinced a generation that the world was doomed and that desperate measures were the only solution.

The film concentrates initially on the unholy trinity of the thug-turned-revolutionary Andreas Baader, his girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin and the radical journalist Ulrike Meinhof.

It's a startling reminder of the degree of public support they commanded at the time. A quarter of Germans under 30 sympathised with the gang. In one scene, the public cheers as they hurl insults at the judges during their trial.

Edel also finds some moments of almost farcical comedy: Baader in Rome, railing bitterly against the Italians who steal "his" stolen car, the terrorists tetchily submitting to a PLO boot camp where men and women are dispatched to separate dormitories and nude sunbathing creates a scandal.

But he also has to steer a narrow course between romanticising the terrorists and making them so repellent that they can't carry the movie. The film's main difficulty is finding a central focus. Bruno Ganz (recently seen as Hitler in Downfall) lends quiet authority to Horst Herold, the shrewd police chief who sees the need to understand the terrorists. But he is stranded for long stretches on the fringes of the action. The gang members are played by some of Germany's best young actors, but there isn't time fully to explore their emotional connections...



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