Provost's Film Series
November 12, 2009
Introduction by Daniel Johnson
The Arduous Task
Street confrontations between revolutionary activists and representatives of the establishment are not likely to lead to mutual understanding. The stakes are too high and the social pressures too great for either party to commit to the unsettling, arduous task of finding common ground. So, far from fostering genuine sharing, sympathy and soul-searching, such confrontations are more likely to leave the antagonists more set in their own understandings, and feeling aggrieved to boot.
But what if these same two parties were to spend a four-day retreat together in a remote mountain cabin? What if they passed those days hiking together, sleeping in the same room together, cooking for each other, and sharing meals together? What if they had a chance to explain themselves to each other, to open up and share a bit about who they once were, or hoped to be, and how they now are? How much better might they come to understand themselves and each other under those circumstances? And how far might their new understandings carry them in their relationship?
Granted, it is hard to imagine that a retreat like this would ever come off. The antagonists on either side are just not very likely to sign up for such an excursion. Yet writer/director Hans Weingartner finds an intriguing way to get them there in The Edukators. That the “retreat” actually results from an act of violence by one of the parties against the other only sharpens the need for them to come to some kind of mutual understanding before it ends.
Secrets and Resolution
Jule (Julia Jentsch) spends her days organizing protests against sweatshop labor and working a deadend job in an upscale restaurant, waiting on the very “capitalist pigs” she rails against on the streets. She dreams of becoming a teacher, but that dream seems completely out of reach. Saddled by a massive debt incurred through a single inadvertent act, she cannot even pay her rent, let alone save money for college. Jule’s boyfriend Peter (Sinte Erceg) and his best friend Jan (Daniel Brühl) share her radical leanings. They also share a secret: a novel form of protest against the obscene disparities of wealth they see around them. On those nights when Jule believes Peter and Jan are hanging posters around the city, they are actually staking out and breaking into the houses of the ultra-rich. They do not take anything, but what a family who lives in one of those houses finds upon returning from their vacation or weekend getaway is just as disturbing. Everything has been moved from its proper place in the home; all of the furniture has been pulled together and piled in Dr. Seussian arrangements; and a note left behind warns: “The fat years are over.” Signed: “The Edukators.”
All goes well until the three friends are quite unexpectedly confronted by Hardenberg (Burghart Klaussner), one of the Edukators’ ultra-rich targets. What follows is a spur-of-the-moment decision that will dramatically alter their relationships and their lives, setting them squarely on that most unlikely path toward mutual understanding. That understanding may well be deep enough to allow them to forgive their particular grievances against each other. Yet even this seemingly graceful resolution raises further questions that may be unanswerable: most notably, who has the right to forgive whom, and for what? The heart, we learn, is a revolutionary cell, but how far can a revolution of the heart really take you?