The Edukators Review
Any high street, today. Anti-capitalist demonstrators protest outside fancy shoe shops and attempt to inform customers that their fancy trainer was made by children in a Third World sweatshop. Police swoop in, and the protestors are dragged unceremoniously away. Jan (Bruhl) is frustrated and angry, but he and best friend and flatmate Peter (Erceg) have a way of relieving their stress at the state of the world: they are The Edukators. They break into the houses of local fat cats and dignitaries, but they don’t steal anything. Instead they move furniture around as a warning: the days of plenty are numbered.
Peter’s girlfriend Jule (Jentsch), unable to pay her rent waitressing, moves in with the boys. Initially she is unnerved by Jan, but when Peter goes on a trip to Barcelona, she and Jan spend some time together and get to know each other better. One evening, drunk, Jule reveals a secret; an accident in an uninsured car has left her with a lifetime of monthly payments to a businessman called Hardenberg (Klaussner). Jan and Jule recklessly break into Hardenberg’s house to teach him a lesson, and with the adrenalin surging, give into their mutual attraction.
Forced to return to the house the next day to look for Jule’s cellphone, the pair are horrified when Hardenberg comes home. Panicking, they call Peter for help, and when they rashly decide to kidnap the rich entrepreneur, carting him off to an uncle’s rural cabin, their ideals and their friendship are tested to the limits.
The Edukators is provocative and clever without being preachy or holier-than-thou. The sense of righteous outrage shared by Peter, Jule and Jan is clearly the director’s but he also shows the other side of the coin by presenting Hardenberg’s point of view. The young activists are shaken to the core when he reveals that he was a hippy activist himself back in the 60s and 70s, and they question him about how he came to abandon his beliefs, the wind having been rather unexpectedly sucked out of their self-righteous sails.
The acting is uniformly excellent. Daniel Bruhl was fantastic as the hapless Alex in Good bye Lenin!, and is just as good here. He’s completely believable as Jan, unhappily in love with his best friend’s girlfriend and frustrated by the world he finds himself in. He and Julia Jentsch are an extraordinarily attractive couple and their guilty attraction is wonderfully played. Stipe Erceg and Burghart Klaussner complete the quartet – Erceg sympathetic as the cuckolded, easy-going Peter, and Klaussner fantastic as the duplicitous, fatherly Hardenberg.
The film takes its time to get going and may be a bit talky for some, but as a polemic I much preferred it to the films of the over-rated Michael Moore. It makes its points very simply and directly – the selfishness of the very rich at Jule’s restaurant, sending away their pear brandy because its served in the wrong glasses; the petty tyranny of managers; the gradual erosion of freedom under the weight of responsibility and society’s expectations. Though the film is political, passionate and strongly felt, it’s also very funny. The concept of Edukating is playful and the film is full of jokes and humour – it has a light, positive, happy feeling.
And Daniel Bruhl is almost as cute as Gael Garcia Bernal…
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