|A FilmExposed Film Review
Dir: Hans Weingartner, Germany, 2004, 126 min, German with subtitles
Cast: Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, Stipe Erceg, Burghart Klaußner
Not, as the name would suggest, a west coast rap crew currently on tour with Outkast and Ludacris, The Edukators is a German film about three would-be political agitators and a stunt that goes wrong.
Jan (Brühl) and Peter (Erceg) are two disaffected youths who spend their days campaigning against sweatshops and social injustice. But at night they enjoy nothing more than to stake out and break into the homes of ostentatiously wealthy urbanites, rearranging their furniture, and leaving enigmatic notes telling their victims, 'Your days of plenty are numbered,' signing themselves 'The Edukators'.
Before long they are joined by Peter's girlfriend Jule (Jentsch), a waitress crippled by debt following an uninsured car accident. But when Jule goads Jan into entering the house of her creditor, their pranks quickly spiral out of control, leading to an assault, a kidnap, and maybe worse.
Director Hans Weingartner's film starts out looking rather like Fight Club-lite. The Project Mayhem-esque japes are clever and entertaining, and it is these that give most of the entertainment value in the first half hour. However, Jan and Peter's characters are for the most part sketched in lightly, and much of the dialogue is simply anti-globalisation rhetoric that sounds like 'Rage Against The Machine' lyrics written out longhand. It is only following the kidnap of the wealthy and reptilian businessman Hardenberg (Klaußner) that the stakes are raised and the tension truly develops.
Unfortunately the story then resorts to a rather predictable love triangle that would be more at home on Hollyoaks. Where the film succeeds in its latter sections is in the character of Hardenburg himself - far more sophisticated and intriguing than his captors - and it is the interplay between the older man and the three younger players that sustains the audience's attention until the final scene.
The videography at least is outstanding. The use of handheld Panasonic digital video cameras is loudly trumpeted in the closing credits, and while this gives the photography a fluid and improvised, Dogme-like feel, it is never at the cost of sumptuous imagery. Shot entirely in available light, the night-time scenes are cast in orange and blue hues reminiscent of last year's Collateral, while the daylight scenes are vivid and crisp and as clear as the mountain air they were recorded in.
Ultimately the picture falls rather between several stools. Too ponderous to be a thriller, too small scale to be a political piece, too cold to be a love story. The ingredients for any of these are here, and were its 126 minutes compressed to 90 The Edukators might have had the focus to become an compelling story with a brain and a heart. Instead it feels like a talented cast and crew tentatively groping their way towards an interesting picture. An education for all involved, perhaps.