When we think about European cinema, visually striking, interesting, and artistically challenging films come to our mind. We view European cinema as a revolt against the entertainment films of Hollywood. It is no surprise, then, that films such as Godard’s A Woman is a Woman and Carax’s Holy Motors capture our attention because of the focus on aesthetics. Therefore, stumbling upon the 2004 German-Austrian drama film The Edukators was a surprise. Directed by Hans Weitgartner, the film revolves around three young anti-capitalists activists who invade wealthy houses in an attempt to open their eyes to their privileged lifestyles.
Rather than focusing on the visuals, the film highlights the script, specifically the storyline and the critiques on society. The style is minimalist, which prevents the audience from getting distracted from the characters and their situation. In examining the film, we realize that the focus on politics and social issues is another facet of European cinema that many students are not aware, but should be because by depicting reality and the effect of systems to common people, European films become a response to Hollywood films that only present happy endings and often romanticizes the violence and suffering when showing how a country deals with social issues. The Edukators was realistic in a sense that the youth had the courage to change things, which we also witnessed in our country in the past. The film also presents Hardenberg, who represents everything the young activists hated about society, but eventually revealed that he was just like them before. Hardenberg, then, becomes a cautionary tale to the audience to show how easy it is to lose our grip on our ideologies because of our experiences in life. He longed for security and in doing so, he embraced capitalism.
Young people standing up for their beliefs and lecturing an adult is not what others would consider entertainment and an avenue for pleasure; but in portraying strong, free-thinking individuals, Weingartner succeeds in provoking our ideologies. He does not push for a propaganda film, but provides equal opportunities for both sides to be heard and allows the audience to think for themselves. He opens up a room for discussion on issues we shy away from, such as capitalism versus socialism, instead of telling us too choose one side over the other.
Amidst the politics and social issues, the three young activists fall into a love triangle. In the past films we watched in our European Cinema class, romance was never really emphasized, in contrast to Hollywood films that usually revolve around romance plots. Surprisingly, we get to see romance as we know it in The Edukators, which created depth rather than ruining the film. Others may view it as unnecessary to the storyline, but I believe it adds another layer to the characters and makes them more real. They are not just caricatures with political statements or propaganda; rather, they are humans that have authentic relationships and emotions, who make mistakes. They are flawed, just like the society they live in. By shedding light on politics and social issues through the use of authentic characters, dialogues, and locations, The Edukators allows the audience to think about their about their beliefs and the society, instead of simply providing entertainment. Who would have thought that politics can become part of our roster of interesting, artistic films? European cinema is, indeed, a breeding ground for all sorts of storytelling and films.