Every heart is a revolutionary cell.
Set in the heart of Berlin, The Edukators follows the lives of three young idealistic activist friends, Jule, her boyfriend Peter & his best friend Jan. After being evicted from her own flat – due to growing debts – Jule must move in with Peter and Jan. Three’s a crowd on normal occasions, but it’s not long before Peter has to travel to Barcelona leaving Jule and Jan living together alone. It’s evident they aren’t particularly friendly towards each other but eventually they become close and Jan admits to her a secret that both he and her boyfriend share. They spend their nights “educating” upper class rich people by breaking into their houses (but never stealing anything), rearranging their furniture and leaving notes with radical messages like “the days of plenty are over.”
Jule, I guess feeling a little left out, persuades Jan to take her out in his van one night to show her which houses they’ve broke into. They come across a house with a familiar name. Jule recognises the name as the man who is suing her for a car accident she caused (hence the large debts) and after a little deliberation (and making sure nobody is home) they break into his house and mess around with his belongings.
Well as you might expect, one thing leads to another and they end up in his indoor swimming pool locking lips with each other. They are forced to leave in a hurry when the floodlights outside come on. Unfortunately for them, while leaving in haste Jule forgets her mobile phone. Jule and Jan are forced to return the next day to recover it but while they are in the house the owner returns. Upon recognising Jule, the owner tries to grab her and they become entangled in a struggle. Jan comes to her rescue and strikes the owner over the head. Not knowing what to do next, they agree to call Peter, who has returned from his travels by now. After his arrival they all concur that the only plan of action is to take the man as a hostage and drive off into the Alps to think their situation over.
This is where it starts to get really interesting. From this point forward the movie turns on its head a little. While they hide out in a cabin belonging to Jule’s uncle, their hostage, Mr. Hardenburg reveals to his captives that he once was a radical himself in his youth. What follows is lots of heavy talk about political ideologies and belief in justice, which does tend to run on a bit. It does set up a rather intriguing last third of the movie that make the three activists ask questions of themselves and their political views. Hardenburg becomes more than a hostage, he becomes a tenant and they are the landlords. He isn’t dangerous, he just wants to return to his home safely, but he also sees a lot of himself in the three and even in a strange way he has a sense of endearment towards his captives, almost like they have relit a political fire within him.
What also unfolds is the slow decline in the relationship between Jule, Jan and Peter (what the hell are they doing and why are they doing it?) eventually reaching breaking point when Peter discovers that Jan and Jule have feelings for each other. Peter scurries off to sulk but later returns and after a bit of time forgives both his best friend and his girlfriend. In a flash they realise what they must do; return Hardenburg to his home and face the consequences. However before they leave he promises not to say anything and even writes a letter of pardon stating that the debt Jule owns him is to be wiped clean.
Will Hardenburg keep his promise? What will become of the trio? The last few scenes – while not entirely tense as such but no less alluring – are beautifully accompanied by Jeff Buckley’s masterfully incandescent version of “Hallelujah”. It all works out in the end.
While the opening scene perfectly sets up the bulk of the story quite well, I won’t lie, it starts slow and takes a while to build any momentum. At times it is a little laborious in its political approach, never shying away from its message, but it’s also a coming of age drama at its core. There is definitely a lesson to be learned from watching this movie and like most European Cinema, it is thought provoking and just has a special way of engaging me like no other.
The acting here is very good. Daniel Bruhl (Jan) Julia Jenstch (Jule) and Stipe Erceg (Peter) never fail to keep steering the movie forward even with the weight of the political agenda hanging over their heads. Bruhl of course would go on to star in Bourne Ultimatum, Inglorious Basterds and Rush, for which he received many award nominations.
The triangle love affair was a little predictable at the beginning but they play it out well and it never becomes overindulgent or drowns out the main story itself. It’s difficult to root for someone who has committed a fairly horrendous crime. Lets not forget that our main characters break into innocent peoples homes, in a way terrorising their lives, and then they go on to kidnapping. It’s a credit to the actors (and also the writing of course) that despite their activities they never become criminals, in my eyes anyways.
I did hear whisperings of an American remake a few years ago but I don’t think anything came of it. To be honest I’d welcome a remake, if only for more people to be introduced to the original.
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter