To be honest, I felt provoked half of the time I was watching the film. As someone who has grown up being taught to be accountable for my actions and realize my responsibilities without blaming others, watching Hans Weingartner’s 2004 German-Austrian crime drama film, Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (The Edukators) honestly made me want to lash out at the characters – including Hardenberg. The film revolves mainly around three young, anti-capitalist Berlin activists, Jan, Peter, and Jules, as they find themselves involved in a love triangle while kidnapping Hardenberg, a fifty-something year old rich guy whose car Jules totaled.
The funny thing is, I understand their ideals and their cause – even respect them, like Hardenberg said. However, I think the film really aims to be provocative, to be unlikeable to its audience, as it revolves around the perspective of young activists – something that not a lot of people have experienced. In that sense, the film had successfully done that by portraying ideals that said young activists have that are mostly different from what I’m used to. It explores a new perspective that somehow makes us empathize with them – in some aspect. The film talks about the huge disparity between the rich and the poor. On one hand, the rich do not really seem to care for others but themselves – exploiting the poor to gain more money while they live in lash houses and collect artisan dolls to be merely displayed in their living rooms. On the other hand, the poor are stuck in a never-ending cycle of working their butts off just to make ends meet, risking being kicked out of their worn-out apartments because they could note pay rent’s due on time (like Jules), and turning to anti-depressants (e.g. television shows and alcohol) to forget that they’re barely living in this capitalist society.
However, I think the things that provoked me was mainly how they blamed rich people like Hardenberg for people like Jules being in debt. Although most rich people do exploit their workers, which is totally wrong, not everything they blame the bourgeoise is really their fault. For instance, although I empathize with Jules because she’s in debt, I do not think we can call it “injustice” to let someone who crashed our car pay for the damages she has caused. That is, she should pay for it, because letting her get away from it somewhat implies that those who have considerably less wealth than people like Hardenberg can cause damage to other people’s property and get away with it just because they earn way less than they do. Given that, people who do not make a lot of money won’t be accountable for their actions anymore, which is why I think it’s not injustice to let Jules pay for the car she totaled, mainly because it really was her fault. However, as an executive and, therefore, as someone with money, Hardenberg should have helped Jules in paying for the debt she owed – maybe by giving her a better job opportunity to pay him back, but nonetheless, I think it’s their duty as people with power and prestige to make other people’s lives easier – which is the Edukator’s cause. Conclusively, as a thought-provoking film that aims to portray idealisms from completely different socioeconomic classes, The Edukators reveals the different ideals of the suffering people in the working class and of the comfortably living bourgeoisie. The film somehow creates a discourse on the flaws and the good sides of the ideals and methods of both classes – slightly leaning towards those who are suffering. It allows its viewers to empathize and fundamentally understand the perspectives of those that some people may call “radicals” in a much more humane light. In a sense, I think The Edukators may be one of the most accurate portrayals of the world political system.