Audiences across the country this weekend were watching Quentin Tarantino’s (nominally) Jewish-American Basterds joyfully hunt for Nazi scalps. But a relative handful of filmgoers in New York opted instead for The Baader Meinhof Complex, in which a group of actual Germans—the violent Red Army Faction, led by Andreas Baader and the erstwhile journalist Ulrike Meinhof—combat the perceived resurgence of fascism in the 1960s with fire-bombings, kidnappings, and, eventually, plane hijackings. The group started out, in 1967, opposing America’s war in Vietnam—to them, a latter-day proxy for Nazi Fascism—but eventually branched out into supporting Arab resistance movements like the PLO, which were, incidentally, also useful sources for weapons and guerilla training. This is the complex the film, by Last Exit to Brooklyn director Uli Edel, sought to describe; the Red Army Faction’s intended target may have been the “good German” mindset that enabled Hitler’s rise to power in their parents’ generation, but what they ended up setting in motion was the horror of the Black September massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Eleven Israeli athletes were killed, and Germany was blamed for indifference to the fate of its Jewish guests; nothing was achieved but more death and recrimination. In February, Edel told an Oscar symposium that he made the film to exorcise his own memories of the period, when he was himself in his early 20s; the trouble with real-life revenge fantasies, as Edel might have told Tarantino, is that the consequences are, inevitably, impossible to predict, or control.
The Baader Meinhof Complex [Official site]
The Journalist Who Exchanged Her Typewriter for a Gun [NYT]
Allison Hoffman is a senior editor at Tablet Magazine. Her Twitter feed is @allisont_dc.