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Learning from 'The Edukators'

Posted at 5:42 PM on August 17, 2005 by Euan Kerr

Euan Kerr barging in again here. Stephanie didn't have a chance to see "The Edukators" and she swears it's closing in Minneapolis on Thursday. If any of you Twin Citians want to see it on the big screen, you will have to act fast if you can't bear the DVD/VHS route. She asked me to write a few thoughts on why you might want to see it....

Perspective can mean a great deal in the movies. While the Movie Maven ponders the shocking truths revealed through the tyranny of door lintels, I find myself wondering more about cultural points of view. Take 'The Edukators" for example. I first heard about the film earlier this year from a couple of German pals, Torsten and Julia, who raved about this film.

They who struggled through the translation of the original title, 'Die fetten Jahre sind forbei.' ("'The years of fat are away'? 'The fat years are done'?" We settled on "The days of plenty are gone.') They raved about this story of two idealist young men who express their revolutionary fervor by breaking into rich people's houses. They don't steal things. They just re-arrange the furniture and leave a note saying 'You have too much money,' or 'The days of plenty are ended.' (That's how the subtitles people translated 'Die fetten jahre....') The two sign the note "The Edukators" giving the US distributors a translational out. They want to scare their victims a little, and maybe make them think a little. The plot thickens when a girlfriend gets involved, and they end up having to kidnap one of their victims who surprises them when they are in his house.

The four talk a lot about who is right and who is wrong. It turns out that the bourgeois houseowner was something of a radical himself as a young man.

Anyway, to get back to the German pals Torsten and Julia. They are two young professionals, doing well in life, but they related completely to the film's central characters and their anti-consumerist tendencies. Both of them grew up experiencing the heady days of German reunification, and Torsten, who grew up in East Berlin, doesn't view the fall of the wall as a completely positive development. We talked a great deal about consumerism, and how it can spin out of control. We also talked about how what is acceptable in the US would draw cries of horror in other countries (and sighs of envy.) It was clear the film had touched them both.

Now the film is here in Minnesota, and I was unsurprised at the relatively small audience on the opening night. (There did seem to be a lot of Germans in the audience, though.) Some US reviewers have found the Edukators 'talkiness' troubling. It is clear that what is a stirring discussion of the evils of capitalism, is just so much naivety to others, or perhaps even more likely just so much noise.

I didn't notice many people who seemed to have been touched by the film, but it pounded it's way through my thick skull. It took me back to a time when I spent a whole lot of time in the company of intense idealists, whose love of a cause was always much, much, deeper than my own. You may well have met similar people yourself. But the character I keep returning to is the householder, the man whose idealism has fallen by the wayside. It's troubling because I think I know him. I think I know him all to well. And that's an uncomfortable perspective.

August 2005
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