The Edukators (Die Fetten Jahre sind Vorbei) Made in: Germany, Austria Language: German Director: Hans Weingartner Starring: Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, Stipe Erceg, Burghart Klaußner Year: 2004
Synopsis: Jule (Julia Jentsch) is a young woman who's financially screwed. After causing a traffic accident (and not having car insurance), she owes 100,000 Euros to a wealthy businessman by the name of Hardenberg (Burghart Klaußner).
Broke and living paycheck to paycheck as a waitress, Jule is evicted from her apartment and is forced to spend alternating nights with a friend, and with her boyfriend Peter (Stipe Erceg).
While Peter is away in Spain, Jule gets acquainted with Peter's weird roommate Jan (Daniel Brühl). After they get further acquainted, Jan and Jule start falling for each other. Then, she learns about Jan and Peter's night time activities.
For a long time, the two have been breaking into the homes of super wealthy people. They don't steal anything- instead, they rearrange furniture and artwork, and leave notes that read: "Your years of plenty are numbered" (Die Fetten Jahre sind Vorbei).
Jan and Peter are self-proclaimed anti-capitalist zealots who want to start a "revolutionary" movement against the establishment. One night, Jan and Jule find out where Hardenberg lives. It turns out he's on vacation, and then Jule convinces Jan to break in to his house as payback for what he's done to her.
The prank goes bad. Hardenberg unexpectedly returns, and they are forced to kidnap him after involving Peter. They take Hardenberg away to a faraway cabin. The love triangle unfolds, and the ordeal turns out to be full of life-changing revelations for all.
The Good: The Edukators is exceptionally well made. It has a very effective, documentary-style indie look which is particularly good during the break-in scenes. Daniel Brühl stands out as he always does, but Julia Jentsch and Stipe Erceg also do a great job in their roles.
All three are incredibly realistic, and come across as naturally as any group of young people you'd see in public. The love story that develops between Jan and Jule is compelling, and director Hans Weingartner's shooting style draws you in to their lives.
Regardless of your political leanings, the The Edukators does eloquently point out many of the problems people face in affluent societies. The conversations between the three protagonists and their captive are genuine and moving. Although the movie is long (just over two hours), Weingartner balances multiple themes without making the film seem clunky and slow.
The Bad: I'm not criticizing hard-left politics here, but throughout the film, there is no discussion of the long term ramifications if the establishment is overthrown and replaced with the new revolutionary system.
I'm surprised Hardenberg never challenges the youths with this line of reasoning. Throughout the film, I kept thinking of a quote by German political theorist Hannah Arendt, in which she says: "The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution."
I think introducing that into the debate would have given the film even more depth, and helped with the central theme of idealism vs. the real world. It might appear (and I could be wrong), that the filmmakers may have been too emotionally attached to their political views in order to question them too much. In other words, I feel Weingartner makes good discussion out of the idealism vs. reality bit, but offers no concrete solution. And neither does he really address the matter of personal responsibility and free choice.
Who would like this movie: The Edukators is for you if you like indie and foreign films. You'll also like it if you have leftist sympathies (no problem with that as long as you're not hurting anyone), and enjoy an animated but civilized political debate.
If you're a conservative (nothing wrong with that either as long as you're not hurting anyone), it will be hard to appreciate this as a well-made film (which it clearly is) without clenching your fists every time a character goes on an anti-capitalist rant.
For those of you who don't know, capitalism is the economic system which makes it possible for you to obtain high quality, affordable Che Guevarra T-shirts from the vendor of your choice.
The Edukators will spark plenty of emotional reaction from its audience, but it's a film that's honest in its beliefs (debatable as they are) without being deliberately antagonistic towards those with a different point of view.