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The Edukators
cast: Cast: Daniel Bruhl, Stipe Erceg, Julia Jentsch, and Brughart Klaussner

director: Hans Weingartner

120 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 16:9
UGC DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
The Edukators is a political film that wears its heart on its sleeve, and yet still has room for a modern Jules et Jim love story with believable, if somewhat stereotyped, characters. Friends, Jan (Daniel Bruhl) and Peter (Stipe Erceg) work clandestinely together as the Edukators, a politically motivated group who break into wealthy apartments not to steal anything, but to rearrange furniture and objects of value in order that the bourgeoisie become disconcerted with their seemingly comfortable lives.

When Peter has to take a trip to Barcelona, he leaves his girlfriend Jule (Julia Jentsch) in the company of Jan, and as they tidy up her old apartment they find that love smoulders between them. Latterly, when Jan confides in Jule that he is a member of the Edukators, Jule persuades him to visit the home of Hardenberg (Burghart Klaussner), a man that she owes 100,000 euros to due to a car accident. Ultimately, this leads them to being discovered and kidnapping Hardenberg. The remainder of the film sees our three protagonists deciding what to do with him against the backdrop of some attractive mountain scenery.

The film contains a few paradoxes. Whilst director Hans Weingartner obviously wants us to side with the Edukators and the spirit of their ideals - even so much as Hardenberg having been part of a revolutionary group in his youth which conveniently means that they are never completely at odds with him - his young revolutionaries idealism is shot through with holes, almost as much as the discrepancies in their characters.

Jan, Jule, and Peter are playing at being revolutionaries. None of them appear to be on the breadline. They can afford to run a vehicle, live in a large apartment, take trips to Barcelona, and have no reservations in hiding out in Jule's uncle's second home in the countryside. Their reference book idealism is culled from past texts rather than their own imaginations. And their political acts are more the jaunts of spoilt educated schoolboys who want to play with danger but are too conservative to go all the way. In terms of their values it is interesting that neither Jan or Jule think too hard about starting their affair. Decadence is therefore not seen to be solely a bourgeois activity. Hardenberg, who obviously was much more of a revolutionist of his time in his youth, is able to play the three of them off against each other without too much difficulty. Their conversations open up the naivety of their political agendas, so much so that the coda at the end of the film seems patently ridiculous (and if one goes to the official website for the film, some of their off-screen japes are positively out of character to the point of stupidity). It is difficult to tell whether these anomalies are intended by the director, of whether he is showing the pointlessness of rebellion or insisting that the opportunities are there if only we might find a cause to hang them onto.

There is little doubt that the acting is pitch perfect. Bruhl and Erceg establish a good relationship on screen that makes us believe in their friendship, and Jentsch is an effective loose cannon with the potential to undo them with her recklessness. As Hardenberg, Klaussner is nonchalant in his superiority. Their conversations - outside of the political stereotyping - are easy and therefore interestingly normal. Whilst there are no particular twists in the story, there are surprises along the way, but ultimately the political trappings grind it down rather than enliven it, and the emotional content feels a little surface rather than realistic. The Edukators is a thoughtful and interesting film, but doesn't stir one to revolution. And the final 'edukation', that "some people never change," doesn't quite seem to know whom it is directed towards.

Extras only include the original trailer, which is a pity as this is a movie that would be ripe for dissection by the director.
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