DAY 5: EDUCATING THE RICH
Germany’s first film at the ongoing European Film Festival, Hans Weingarter’s The Edukators is a love story, a thriller and a study of modern activism. Two young men, Jan and Peter, break into apartments owned by the rich, scribble radical/revolutionary graffiti on the walls and ‘rearrange’ the furniture. When Jan, learns of an enormous debt owed by Jule (Peter’s girlfriend) upon crashing into a wealthy businessman’s Mercedes, he helps her break into the home of Hardenberg the rich creditor as he considers the situation as an injustice. The plan goes awry when Hardenberg unexpectedly shows up and in the struggle that ensues he is kidnapped and taken to a cabin in the Austrian Alps. The revolutionaries later discover that Hardenberg was himself a revolutionary as a youngster and this revelation provokes an argument about the benefits of capitalism, idealism- which Hardenberg insists is a luxury of the young- and the thin line between revolution and terrorism.
The vehemence and logic behind the arguments is reminiscent of the HBO movie, The Sunset Unlimited, but where that film had two characters backed by decades of experience, this contrasts youthful idealism with elderly realism. But even said idealism is tinged with cynicism as the young characters are convinced that revolutions are no longer what they used to be- in a beautifully shot scene with Jan and Jule talking in a balcony overlooking the city at dusk, Jan laments over the commercialization of revolutions: “All that was subversive, you can buy in shops today- Che Guevara t-shirts, anarchy stickers…”
With commendable performances from all three leads, The Edukators gets out its anti-capitalist message very well despite the diversion into an exploration of the love triangle that develops when Jule falls in love with Jan. The juxtaposition of love and riots has been explored sexually in another European film, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers and here the trio of characters mostly stays clothed, and while those in The Dreamers were oblivious of the protests right outside their windows, Jan, Jule and Peter are the protests themselves.
Inevitably, the youth revolt at the heart of this film readily echoes the Occupy Nigeria protest that engulfed major cities in the country in January and any number of prominent people in Nigeria can be real-life stand-ins for Hardenberg. Only the utterly clueless will fail to see that cinema irrespective of country of origin is an avenue to explore man’s common humanity. What is more, as in life, The Edukators, proffers no easy solutions- the anti-capitalist youngsters become close to disillusion when they see the very concept they stand against start to creep into their psyche; Hardenberg concedes to the reasoning behind their actions and appears to have a change of heart but not for long; in life, in Nigeria, the protests died with barely a whimper.
Art imitates life and in arguments of this type, no one is readily converted: as has been said in J.M Coetzee’s Disgrace, “The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body.”