It’s amazing how filmmakers are still obsessed with communism, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, and making a social statement hidden inside pseudo artsy-fartsy twenty-something yarns about drugs, heists, and crime to find oneself. Completely devoid of the usual humor that goes along with such a film, “The Edukators” isn’t quite funny and isn’t quite sad, and unhappily, not quite believable. Perhaps as an American reviewer I lack the basic socialization necessary to understand modern German youth angst, but as a twenty something, especially one disconcerted with modern capitalism, I ought to be able to sympathize with the film’s message, if only I could figure out what that is…
“The Edukators” is the story of Jan, Jule, and Peter. They are three kids living in Germany, with crappy jobs, no prospects, and under constant threat of eviction and harassment. Jule has lost a major lawsuit, placing her liable for thousands of Euros to a rich man whose car she hit while driving without insurance. Peter and Jan both spend their nights breaking into rich people’s houses and rearranging their furniture, leaving cryptic messages scrawled on paper in conspicuous places. “Your days of Plenty are Numbered” say the notes. Feeling clever and on top of the world, Jan initiates Peter’s girlfriend Jule into their society by telling her about their midnight excursions. When Jule figures out that Mr. Hardenberg is on their list of potential hits, she decides she wants to be a part of the group. You see, Mr. Hardenberg is the man to whom she owes so much money. They break into his large mansion, mess up his place, and gloat over their short-lived and undeserved victory over capitalism. Of course, they do what any two hot young kids getting their adrenaline up with illegal activities and hormonal levels that would make an older couple die of heart attacks on the spot would do: they have sex in the swimming pool. Though Jan is Peter’s best friend and Jule is his girlfriend, they throw caution to the wind and have a torrid and insubstantial affair. Perhaps it is their lack of prudence that causes them to be recklessly stupid, for Jules forget her cell phone at the property. They need to get it back before Mr. Hardenberg, and the police, figure out what they’ve been doing.
Interspersed with the action is Jan’s constant rambling about the inequalities of society and the class separations that plague his life. Jan, the leader, sometimes sounds like a genuinely brilliant visionary (think Brad Pitt in “Twelve Monkeys” but without that whole schizophrenia thing), and at other times like a poser who spouts off the teachings of another that he gleaned from some history book somewhere. Though the kids attend activist rallies, none of them live a very revolutionary lifestyle. Jules, it’s fair to say, gets evicted from her apartment (but after not paying rent for 6 months) and has a crappy job at an upscale restaurant that she loses at the first sign of backtalk to her boss. However, she never goes hungry, is the victim of a crime, or is out on the street. Jan and Peter both live in a huge apartment that in Los Angeles would cost three times my monthly salary just to live in, excluding the light and heat bill, and neither one of them seems to have a job. Again, the kids seem to have plenty of money for cigarettes, food, and pot, so their plight never seems that dire. When Jan begins his many speeches about how unjust society is, it seems insincere, spoiled, and frankly, full of bullshit. Is this the intention of the filmmaker? It’s impossible to figure that out. What is true is that their activism goes out the window when they get to know Hardenberg, who is far smarter than any of the Edukators could ever hope to be.
The unwarranted cynicism and sense of entitlement these kids seem to have is akin to the angst and whining that you can get in movies like “Go”, “Reality Bites”, and “The Legend of Billy Jean”. Basically, its just another slacker-torment flick with a really sexy love triangle, some cool political ideas, and some fun youthful adventures. Director Weingartner has a good eye for emotion and personalities in his cinematography and close ups. What he doesn’t do a good job of is polishing the script down to a shorter (the film is over two hours) and more sensible storyline. The film begs for more action, thrills, and jokes, or more dramatic and painful revelations. What we get is an in-between mash of romantic ideals, a botched kidnapping, and some very good time wasted while the perpetrators could have been out going to college, getting better jobs, or being productive members of society rather than ineffective petty criminals. The “Hollywood” ending left me cold and dissatisfied, hoping desperately for the depressing and truthful climaxes usually witnessed in the films from nations unfettered by the consumerism and tacky optimism that pervades studio films in the United States.