The Edukators (2004) is a German-Austrian crime drama following three young activists who break into homes to rearrange the furniture of wealthy homeowners for the purpose of leaving political messages. The film is left-leaning through and through, brimming with themes of the lower class versus the elite class, with the youth representing the lower class struggling to make ends meet while the apathetic elite lives it up in mansions with their designer vehicles. The Edukators as they called themselves thus targeted certain members of the elite class who were shown to be completely ignorant towards the plight they perpetuate. This dissatisfaction with capitalism is by and large the entire point of the film, and this frustration is made palpable in almost all its aspects.
Yet, this is not another leftist or propagandist film pushing for armed struggle, even though the film does go there at one point. Rather, Hans Weingartner chooses a plot and characters that are wholly nonviolent to make viewers think about where they stand in the political spectrum. Audiences also perceive a certain conflict of ideals between past and present (one example being the ideals of Hidenberg) in the film and are invited to consider both sides of the spectrum. This is something I particularly appreciated about the film: it didn’t sway too much to either side, and instead simply encouraged its audience to think.
Audiences receptive to these ideals will find much of value to watch. I personally found the three protagonists’ impassioned soliloquies on the state of society and the state of their individual lives to be quite moving. Jule, for example, was a waitress working off a debt she incurred because of a freak accident that led to a wealthy businessman taking advantage of her. These stories serve to give these ideologies as well their own human faces: viewers are put face to face with the realities of the systems they themselves unknowingly perpetuate in society. Social justice is perhaps the clearest theme, and this is something any viewer would relate to regardless of their political leanings.
To an extent, I felt like the romance story arc was placed there solely to provide a bit of fan service as well as to make the movie a little more desirable and accessible to Western or mainstream audiences. While it did lend the film a more human face for viewers who may not be completely on board with the ideologies presented, it ultimately felt unnecessary not to mention half-baked in its overall execution. Not only was its contribution and effect on the plot very meager and unsubstantial, it was also very stressful to watch as it only served to make the protagonist a little unlikeable.
Admittedly, the love triangle was certainly central to the film’s story; viewers cannot help but feel disappointed towards one protagonist as he commits infidelity and betrays the trust of his best friend. However, this only serves to emphasize that as the film closes, there’s a sense that these three are working towards something bigger than themselves, whether that is the fight for a more just society, or simply their unshakable bond as friends.