The Edukators
dir. Weingartner
Opens Fri August 12
Fox Tower

I'm constantly in a bind with one of my friends when it comes to politics. This is because my friend loves him some Democrats. I like my friend: He's genuinely (i.e., not conservatively) compassionate, he's angry at the current administration, and he possesses a resolute conviction that if Americans would just elect Hillary, or Obama, or anyone else without an elephant on their campaign logo, then maybe we could pull this country out of its tailspin.

But I'm too cynical—I can't buy that all (or any) of our problems can be solved so easily. (I can't be one of those bloggers, either; whining about corporate rule and the evils of cars only has so much legitimacy when one's living in the world's most affluent country.) At this point, believing in revolution over corruption requires a streak of idealism so strong that even the vicious assaults of Bush (not to mention those of the Democrats themselves) can't beat it down.

So maybe that's why I liked The Edukators so much—it's a film about idealism's inherent strengths and undeniable weaknesses. The plot centers around three young pseudo-revolutionaries (Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, and Stipe Erceg) who, in acts inspired equally by conscience and malaise, break into wealthy families' homes, slightly fuck things up, and leave simple notes ("You have too much money"). But when the ruffians are caught by one of their conservative marks (Burghart Klaußner), they panic—kidnapping him and fleeing to the mountains; they soon find themselves re-examining their beliefs, even as the kidnapped businessman does the same.

The film's too long, and it's never quite as profound as it pretends to be, but excellent performances and relevant dialogue buoy what would otherwise feel staged and preachy. Throughout The Edukators, I was waiting for the point where one side would be proven irrefutably right. But director Hans Weingartner and his co-writer Katharina Held are smarter than that; they know that politics are never as simple as clichés make them seem. The Edukators is astute, moving, and profoundly unsettling—in other words, it feels less like marching orders from any specific political philosophy, and more like real life. ■