In all honesty, after watching The Edukators, I had no idea how to feel. I thought that the film was far too long for its own good, and in comparison to another film, also German at that, that I’ve seen in class, I felt the way Good Bye Lenin approached its political statements about capitalism and government was much more subtle and effective than The Edukators, which seems to just outright give the viewer a lecture in the middle of the film.
And this is puzzling because the basic premise of the movie really does not feel like it had to be almost two full hours. It’s simply about a trio of anti-capitalist activists, two of which are a couple, and them committing a kidnapping-by-circumstance, and the relationships of these three and their captor. Along the way, the captor learns to bond with them, the third wheel of the activists falls in love with the girl, and more issues are discussed.
I think what the movie also fails at from the start is introducing these characters. Obviously it is always a tricky thing to have a crime film with likable characters, considering how the very nature of the genre represents a fantasized view in the acts one shouldn’t normally do, but the main characters all start off very bland and unlikable, particularly Jule (Julia Jentsch). I never truly bought the romance between the characters as well, and the more kissing scenes there were, the more the romance subplot felt forced in as well as uncomfortable to watch. While the characters all eventually learn to grow, and they become more likable and understandable, it happens far too close to the end of the film for it to truly have any impact. In fact, the film’s ending even attempts to try a twist ending where it initially appears that the activists would not get away with their crimes only to reveal that they in fact did, but at the very end of the film I was just more annoyed they just didn’t get caught.
And another thing I felt the movie was lacking was a consistent theme. The film begins with a strong opening scene of the leads protesting a store’s sweatshop practices, and then builds up to them breaking into the home of Hardenberg, a man who would eventually be their hostage. Once they appear to get caught and commit the kidnapping, the film takes a more panic-induced tone, and the actual kidnapping is intense. But when the dust settles, the film transitions from a crime drama to an almost slice-of-life drama with the four characters. It feels almost like an entirely different film, and the sudden shift is truly jarring, with its bloated runtime also adding to the pain.
The one thing I did like about the film though was the performances. As much as the characters felt unlikable or flat, I never felt that they were poorly acted. Everyone in the film’s 4-person ensemble is doing their best, and the emotions of each character as well as the tone in their dialogue is felt. The actors all did a very good job, and their performances are easily the best part of the film.
In the end, after much thought, I honestly didn’t expect to dislike a movie any more than The Five Obstructions out of all the films I’ve watched in this class, but The Edukators successfully managed to dethrone it. It’s a well-acted film that, like its characters, sadly feels like it doesn’t know what it’s doing or where it’s going.