Directed by Hans Weingartner. Starring Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, Stipe Erceg, Burghart Klaussner. (2004, R, 127 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 19, 2005
Sticking it to the man, German-style, is the subject of this smart, kicky little gem that owes as much to Guy Debord and the Situationists of yore (and oh, how we miss them) as it does to the angsty teenage-rebellion template it so strenuously seeks to upend. What really gets upended, though, is a lot of pricey furniture and high-end stereo systems of the German ruling class as flyweight Robin Hoods, Jan (Brühl) and Peter (Erceg), high on youthful idealism, and pot, wage a none-too-subtle war on the upper-crust bourgeoisie by sneaking into their palatial homes and – hell ja! – rearranging the furniture, putting CD players in refrigerators, and leaving behind ominous notes: "Your days of plenty are numbered." It’s a clever conceit and one that American mallrats ought to study and take to heart; a healthy democracy can always use a few more teenage zealots with creativity to burn. It’s only when Peter’s girlfriend Jule (the achingly gorgeous blond Jentsch) enters the picture and joins in the duo’s funny games – she’s just been evicted and is in debt up to at least her lederhosen thanks to an automotive run-in with an elite businessman named Hardenberg (Klaussner) – that Weingartner’s film threatens to spin out of control. In between Jule’s dalliances with Peter’s best friend Jan – what’s up with that, girl? – and the trio’s snarkily escalating social activism, there’s plenty of leftist thought and WTO-bashing to mull over. Whereas Kim Wilde’s archetypal kids in America live for the music-go-round, the kids in Germany are apparently busy smashing the adult state, albeit with a velvet hammer and a good strong dose of snappy, cheerful irony. Things come to a head when the gang of three ends up in the Hardenberg home and suddenly turn from teenage rebels to kidnappers, arguing their cause with their conservative abductee, himself a former lefty wastrel, and getting it on in the pool. Frankly, it all sounds like a Yes Men prank or an Upright Citizens Brigade sketch taken to extremes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Edukators has real heart, and Weingartner’s film is bound to lead to some serious post-screening cafe conversations, vis-à-vis youth’s obligation to foment minor acts of creative anarchy within the rigidly overstructured and overseen modern world. But just like those kids in America, these Deutschland dissenters also want to have as much fun as possible, and so the love-and-lust triangle among Jule, Jan, and Peter is the film’s true engine of destruction, a heartbreaking reality check that threatens to put the brakes on the young men’s turbocharged provocations. So it goes with life and love in this tiny, righteously romanticized niche of the New World Order.