21 April 2005

FILM REVIEW: Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei

aka The Edukators (currently being shown in UK cinemas)

Film drama about a trio of gute Menschen in the New Germany

The biblical title of the film, Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei, refers to the slogan of two Berlin friends whose imaginative scheme, a sort of performance art, involves breaking into the villas of the rich to rearrange the furniture. Nothing is stolen in these raids; their aim is to shake the exploitative rich out of smug complacency. In dialogue, this is linked to the forces of anti-capitalist protest and a rising up of the exploited and damaged. Jan, Jule and Peter are three "good Germans" in a present-day Deutschlandmärchen. Their attempts to be a force for good produce a situation which slips out of control, however, and raises the prospect of ending where the 1968ers did, in prison or dead.

The film relieves the earnestness of protest through lively humour, and through compelling music, whilst reinstating the sexiness of the revolutionary.

Where Good Bye Lenin was a reckoning between the GDR and the post-GDR, Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei is a reckoning between the old FRG and the New Germany. Two crucial Germanic pursuits - of Money and of Ideals - come head to head. Money is represented by an unthinking old businessman, Hardenberg, who has turned away from the ideals of his younger self and become a conformist "success". When in the mountains with the self-styled Erziehungsberechtigte, he seems to come to recognition of how he should change, but on returning to the city and the system, this father-figure becomes more sinister.

Many familiar motifs of German culture are reworked in this film: not only the clash of generations, but also the meaning of car brands (the VW van as a vehicle of subversion, the Mercedes as shorthand for mindless bourgeois greed), evil, gobstopper-helmeted police, and the Alps as a temporary haven outside the polis. The film uses many resonant lines - from "die Stereoanlage ist im Kühlschrank" in the opening sequence, to the motto "Manche ändern sich nie" at the close. For all that the systemic unfairness endures, there is nonetheless hope in the closing motto, for it also refers to the stubborn endurance of the revolutionaries. Ultimately the idea of living wild und frei is celebrated and that makes this a joyous film.

Further info about this film
Morning Star review of the film