The Edukators Review
A young German girl, Jule (Julia Jentsch) is finding life difficult, disillusioned by a low-paid and undervalued job as a waitress, trying to handle a crippling debt and threatened with eviction from her flat for late payment of her rent. What makes things worse is that she sees herself a victim of an unjust capitalist society, but the protests she makes with friends outside high-street shops selling products that are made using third-world sweatshop labour seem to have little effect.
She is unaware however that her boyfriend Peter (Stipe Erceg) and his strange friend Jan (Daniel Brühl) are taking anti-capitalist protests a little bit further. While she thinks he is out putting up posters at night, Jan and Peter are breaking into villas of wealthy businessmen while they are on holiday with their families, rearranging their furniture and expensive décor into amusing configurations, and leaving the owners a message from “The Edukators” to make them reflect on the obscenity and shallowness of their material wealth. As a rule however they never steal anything from the houses they break into.
While Peter is on a trip to Barcelona, Jule gets to know Jan better and finds out the secret of their night-time missions. She wants to get involved in this kind of activity, but her motivations seem to be inspired by a personal vendetta, and when the owner of the house they have “educated” returns early (Burghart Klaußner), they find themselves in a much more serious a situation than they bargained for. When Peter comes back from his holiday Jan and Jule find they have to let him know what has happened, but how can they explain the fact that they have also fallen in love with each other.
The Edukators starts off with an interesting and somewhat compelling premise and it’s hard not to identify with how the characters are introduced as youthful idealists, striking out at the inequality, petty injustices and heavy-handed policing they encounter in their everyday lives, with acts of harmless protest, vandalism and minor terrorism. The film also captures well the heart-pounding risks of breaking into a heavily alarmed and security monitored house and the dangerous thrill of the actions of The Edukators, by effective use of hand-held camerawork. The central conflict between acting out of idealism and individual interest is also well developed and an interesting central dilemma.
The love-triangle element however is much less convincing and a serious drag on the second half of the film. The romance element doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem – it does add another dimension and source of internal conflict to the characters – it’s just that it is handled very unconvincingly. Right from the moment it is first introduced, when Jule expresses mistrust of Peter’s friend, you can immediately tell - since we have just seen him acting virtuously towards a down-and-out man being harassed by inspectors on a bus - that she will soon also come to see what a fine young man he really is. Their courtship, while Peter is conveniently away holidaying by himself in Barcelona (curiously for a young activist, not there to participate in a anti-capitalist G8 protest or anything like that, but to party night and day), is handled in the most heavy-handed, banal and obvious manner. Worse, there appears to be an awkwardness to these scenes with the handheld camera’s presence being obvious and intrusive, alerting the viewer to its presence.
Neither the romantic entanglements nor the deeper terrorist situation the characters find themselves in are enough to sustain the tension for the second full hour. It is all very civilised and sanitised and you know there is never going to be any unpleasantness or serious harm done. The ending is also all a little bit too neatly wrapped-up in a Hollywood fashion, but the film has set-up an interesting situation and raised political and social issues intelligently, with interesting conflicts of ideology as well as clearly bringing personal differences to the fore. As such The Edukators adds up to a satisfyingly complete, intelligent and often thrilling experience.
Pathé’s UK Region 2 release of The Edukators is their usual barebones affair, but at least has reasonably good audio-visual specifications.
For all their faults with releasing pretty much barebones UK editions of feature-packed European releases, you can at least usually rely on Pathé to provide a good quality transfer of their releases – at a slightly lower spec, losing DTS audio tracks and being seriously compromised by large fixed subtitles - but the actual A/V quality is nevertheless usually pretty good and that again is the case here. The image is clean, sharp, colourful and stable, with little to complain about in terms of either analogue or digital artefacts, other than a mild and sometimes annoying dose of edge enhancement.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and it’s fine. Strong and clear making appropriate use of the speakers – mostly front based, but using occasional use of surrounds and rumbling deeply from the subwoofer on occasion.
English subtitles are the typical large, fixed subtitles that appear on all Pathé UK releases. They are clear and readable and translate the film well, but are too large and intrusive. There is really no valid excuse for them not being removable when almost every other independent UK distributor - Artificial Eye, Tartan and Soda Pictures to name a few - can manage to do so.
The only extra feature on the release is the regular Theatrical Trailer (2:27), which sets the film up well, but eventually gives away too much information. None of the more entertaining teasers for the film that were shown theatrically are included, nor any of the numerous extra features that appear on the German Region 2 edition (in Germany the film is called Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei - “Your days of plenty are numbered”), which contains a commentary, a making of, deleted scenes etc.
The Edukators is just a little bit overlong for the premise and central romantic conflicts to convincingly sustain, and it's all a little too safe and harmless to address the serious issues of terrorism and anti-capitalism it raises, but it does at least draw all these elements into a well-made film that gives you thrills as well as something to think about. Pathé’s release is the standard barebones edition with good A/V quality, but huge, distracting fixed subtitles. As such it’s certainly worth renting to see, but there is nothing here to make you want to purchase this on DVD.
Last updated: 25/04/2018 08:22:43