Netflix it: ‘Edukate yourself’

caitlinhardee

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This film depicts Daniel Brühl shirtless.  The review could probably stop right there.

But if your brain is up to processing two things at once, you’ll also notice that “The Edukators” (“Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei”) is packed with powerful social themes. We are thrown into the lives of three young leftists living in modern Berlin. Renegade best friends Jan and Peter (Daniel Brühl and Stipe Erceg) fight their personal war against the capitalist establishment by breaking into opulent homes and rearranging the furniture. When Peter’s girlfriend Jule (Julia Jentsch) pushes Jan to commit a rash break-in, the three end up as kidnappers.

The film then transitions to an Alpine setting, where the gritty rock soundtrack quiets to sparse acoustic accompaniments that suit the introspective, interpersonal side of the film. The three must answer some pretty deep questions: in what do they really believe, and how can they stay true to their values and themselves? They seek to remain pacifists, but to make a difference and to escape from their personal oppression. When Jentsch and Brühl’s characters fall in love, they are confronted with the difficult reality of the free-love lifestyle and the struggle to honor both friendship and desire. The scenes between Brühl and Erceg, as Erceg confronts his anger at his friend of 15 years, are among the most real and compelling in the film.

The film is in German, with subtitles for the English-speaking viewer’s benefit. If you’re the type who can’t stand subtitled films, there’s still hope: as of 2006, American director Brad Anderson was hoping to remake the film in English with Jake Gyllenhaal. But as no recent developments have been heard on this project, you might want to consider subtitles anyway, or just learn the sexy German language.

This month marks an especially good time to get in touch with German films, language, and culture, as we are seeing a particularly important historic occasion for Germany and the world. Monday, Nov. 9, marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the far-reaching political consequences of German reunification. From the divided Berlin, wrought with tension and restriction, we have arrived at the Berlin of Peter, Jan, and Jule: city of edgy youth and rebellion: and the Berlin of today, city of constant innovation, free thought, art and music. With the recent European Music Awards being held in Berlin, we saw U2 playing “One” before a light-flooded Brandenburg Gate and East German band Tokio Hotel playing “World Behind My Wall” to the visuals of a giant wall burning.

This film’s soundtrack offers much of this modern spirit of German and European musical unity. With German artists Tocotronic and The Notwist, Depeche Mode and Placebo from Britain, Scottish band Franz Ferdinand and Scottish artist Lucky Jim doing a prominently-placed cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” we are offered a range of musical moods to compliment the angst, love and bravery of the characters.

And yeah, everybody takes their clothes off.

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