|There is a message here, no doubt. Sometimes it seems to lie
in "The Edukators"' topo- and geographical movements: between Prenzlauer
Berg and Zehlendorf Berlin, from Berlin to the Austrian Alps, from the Alps
to Spain. There is a map (we see it again and again) the story seems to aim
at but this is not the map that charts the story arc - which happens to be
not an arc anyway, but a strange and meandering line of back and forth movements.
A movement of getting in, of staying out and of getting away without getting
caught. A movement of being stuck and getting loose again. The movie very
obviously does not know where it wants to go, or where it starts from or
how it wants to end. However, start it does, end it does and in between there
is a lot of undirected movement that takes the form of - for lack of a better
word - messages.
At first sight "The Edukators" really is a message driven movie, so much
so that sometimes you may ask yourself if it is a movie at all or rather
an illustrated talking heads treatise on the ailments of late capitalism.
These people, Peter, Jule, Jan, they suffer. It is not too obvious what they
suffer from but this may be exactly what it is then: They suffer from not
being able to say precisely what they so diffusely suffer from. The current
state of society, capitalism, a rich asshole that keeps Jule in debt, a bossy
boss in a restaurant who humiliates her. And a yearning for love, a yearning
for finding a way of expressing what they do not really know they actually
want to express, apart from the suffering. Peter and David, however, have
found a way of expression: they break into rich people's villas (in the rich
people's absence), not in order to steal but in order to produce disorder,
they put the stereo into the refrigerator: stuff like that.
Then, here we go again, they leave messages: "The fat years are over" or
"You have too much money", signed: The Edukators. Protest as happening in
absentia of the addressees. Protest disguised as art disguised as protest
- not, as the filmmakers and their protagonists seem to think, anarchy but
a clandestine and very private form of pseudo-politics. Their actions do
not even touch the public sphere, except for a small note in the newspaper.
They do not seek the public, all they hope for is a private lesson for the
rich pigs. What this film wants to (and should) be about is the relation
of privacy and politics, and therefore questions of possible agency and action.
In the beginning we see an aggressive protest against sweat shops, which
is stopped by the police, actio interrupta. That's it for an attempt in politics.
What this film however really is about is an escape from politics into the
private sphere. Not only does it very early on start to focus on a hackneyed
triangular love story, it then even feeds the political impetus into this
triangle and, even worse, is happy to discuss politics on this level. The
story that is told is the excuse for this strategy, or, it does not matter
which way you want to put it, this strategy has to produce a story just like
the one "The Edukators" settles for. The three protagonists get caught during
one of their break-ins, the rich guy who surprises them is, accidents will
happen, the one who after a car accident keeps Jule deeply in debt and is
therefore responsible for her slave labor as a waiter in a rich pig restaurant.
He recognizes her, they don't know what to do with him and they decide to
Seldom has a film found a story that fits its own movement in such allegorical
perfection. The young protagonists get stuck in their confused will to action,
and so they try to escape without having a clear plan of what should happen
next. They take their hostage to a hut in the Alps. And now the movie does
not - as you might still hope - turn into a nightmarish return of the repressed,
but quite simply into a holiday idyll. "The Edukators" is an allegory of
the idyllization of political discourse, it dreams of a phantasmagoric
empowerment by escapistic private action. The action, however, is helpless
and the violence that started it soon softens into a Habermas in the Alps
scenario. The rich pig, it turns out, was some kind of student revolutionary
in the late sixties who, as he now learns to see, has cheaply sold his ideals
for a 3.4 million Euro income and a 14 hour workday that leaves no time for
happiness. The four of them now discuss politics, and they blissfully channel
the muddled and intellectually helpless feelgood criticism of capitalism
"Attac" has come to stand for.
All this, the idyllization, the insistence on sending messages without precise
content, the half-conscious criticism that lacks analytical rigour but abounds
in clichéd language and thought (to which the sloppiness of the film's
cinematic language perfectly corresponds), the will to action that resorts
to privatist escapism, all this may be read as an uncannily accurate (or
accurately uncanny) - albeit unintentional - depiction of a current state
of public and political affairs. Uncanny however it is - and the film finally
twists away from its Habermasian hopes in a last movement that may be read
as its surprise Utopian turn. But apart from the fact that the film seems
more interested in the twist than its Utopian potential, this Utopia of a
return to politics itself takes the uncanny form of another escape, the uncanny
form of a private idyll (the three protagonists cuddled together in bed)
and even the political action takes its cue from one of the more conservative
and simple-minded critics of Western civilization. "The Edukators" in the
end sends a message from Neil Postman. So much for its politics.
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