It’s the second Daniel Brühl film I’ve fallen in love with. Brühl himself is extremely easy on the eye, and the concept of the film is quite straightforward – can sixties radicalism survive in 21st century Germany? The answer is no, but not just (as Brühl laments) because protest has been assimilated by the system – the three proto-terrorist protagonists’ hearts aren’t really in it either. Brühl longs for anti-capitalist meaning, but can’t bring himself to act as more than a prankster, his friend Peter little more than an angry young man. They break into empty villas and merely rearrange the furniture to unsettle the rich, but their lives are turned upside down when Peter’s girlfriend draws herself into their games and doesn’t just find a love for it, but is far angrier and far more reckless. Her mistakes force Jan (Brühl) and Peter into a kidnapping situation truly evocative of the sixties. And this in turn forces the love triangle at the heart of their very timeless problems to unravel.
It’s particularly ironic watching a film slamming the evils of capitalism at at time when neoliberalism has in fact failed precisely for the reasons articulated in the film. Is inequality natural, or is it imposed, and if so, who really is to blame? In the sixties the answer was the entire system, and the film skates around the reality that protest really ended because people didn’t know who to blame anymore. The kidnapped rich man is clearly not the monster they label him, and both sides are trapped in their disillusionment – him by embracing the system he couldn’t overthrow in the sixties, they by sticking to their guns even when they all realise they have more in common than they’d imagined. Ultimately this is a film about power. The three young people fail despite their guns and the kidnapping – Hardenberg their victim throwing them into disarray by finding reenchantment from the capitalism which really had disillusioned him through joining in their actions. They meanwhile look for it in each other, and it’s simply not there.
It’s an insightful film about the timelessness of human relationships. There’s an indictment on captialism – that it will always coopt human relationships, indeed that in the early 21st century it may (as Hardenberg surmises) be so embedded in human nature that true rebellion is dead. That director Hans Weingartner reaches this conclusion through moody interplay between all four leads is regrettably American – a much harder, insightful edge is missing in getting to that conclusion, particularly in the back half of the script. That it remains entertaining though is down to its honesty, and the quality of the acting. Worth a look, whether you like films with subtitles or not.