German film poster
|Directed by||Hans Weingartner|
|Produced by||Antonin Svoboda
|Written by||Katharina Held
|Music by||Andreas Wodraschke|
|Edited by||Dirk Oetelshoven
|Distributed by||Celluloid Dreams|
|Running time||127 minutes|
The Edukators (German: Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei)[note 1] is a 2004 German-Austrian crime drama film directed by Hans Weingartner. It stars Daniel Brühl, Stipe Erceg and Julia Jentsch as three young anti-capitalist activists who live a love triangle in Berlin. At the same time, the friends call themselves "the Edukators" as they invade upper-class houses, move furniture and leave notes indicating it.
Weingartner wrote The Edukators based on his own experiences as a former activist for the central subject, and his personal life for creating the main love triangle. The director chose not to have violent actions by the main character's side; rather they would use a "poetic resistance." The film was shot in Berlin and Austria with digital hand-held cameras under a deliberate low budget that, according to, the director was to keep the focus on the acting and make it quickly.
First exhibited at the Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2004, and released in its home countries later that year, The Edukators was positively received by critics and audiences. It grossed more than $8 million worldwide, and received a number of awards and nominations, including the German Film Awards.
Jule is a waitress struggling to pay off the €100,000 debt she accumulated after crashing into a Mercedes-Benz S-Class of a wealthy businessman named Hardenberg (Burghart Klaußner) on a motorway. After she is evicted for paying her rent too late, she moves in with Peter and Jan, who are often out all night. When Peter takes a trip to Barcelona, Jan reveals that he and Peter spend their nights "educating" upper-class people by breaking into their houses, moving furniture around, and leaving notes with messages that say "die fetten Jahre sind vorbei" (the days of plenty are over), or "Sie haben zu viel Geld" (you have too much money).
After learning about this, Jule convinces the reluctant Jan to spontaneously break into Hardenberg's home in the affluent Berlin suburb of Zehlendorf, as he happens to be away on business. During the break-in, the thrill of the moment entices the two to kiss. Jan leaves Jule alone for a few minutes because he does not want to hurt his friendship with Peter. While wandering around, Jule accidentally sets off the house's floodlights after she goes outside and they leave in a hurry.
Peter returns the next day, but Jan and Jule do not tell him about their activities the night before. Jule soon realises that she is missing her mobile phone, so she and Jan go off later that night to look for it in the house. Just after she finds it, Hardenberg walks in the door and he begins to struggle with Jule after recognising her. Jan, who hears the struggle, comes downstairs and knocks Hardenberg out with a flashlight. Not knowing what to do, the pair call Peter who shows up to help them.
The three cannot decide what to do with Hardenberg, so they decide to take him to a remote and rarely used cabin in the Tyrolean Austrian Alps, near Jenbach, overlooking Achensee, that belongs to Jule's uncle. While trying to decide how to deal with their hostage, they learn that Hardenberg was once a radical himself in the 1960s. He had been a leader of the Socialist German Student Union and was once good friends with Rudi Dutschke, before eventually marrying, getting a good job and abandoning his ideals.
As the story progresses, political ideologies, but more so the characters' relationships, become the deep issues. Peter and Jan temporarily fall out over Jan's now blooming romance with Jule, while Hardenberg seems to regain some sense of his former self.
In the end, the three decide to take Hardenberg back to his house and let him go. As the three get ready to leave, Hardenberg hands Jule a letter, clearing all her debt and telling them that they need not worry about the police. The film ends with Peter, Jan and Jule sleeping in bed whilst a group of Spezialeinsatzkommando police amass outside the flat that Jule, Peter and Jan had been sharing, and knock on the door. Jule then wakes up when she hears a knock on the door. The police force their way into the flat which they find nearly completely empty. The film then cuts to Jule, who opens the door to a hotel maid offering to clean their room, presumably in a hotel in Barcelona. Back in the apartment in Berlin, the police find a note that reads "Manche Menschen ändern sich nie" (some people never change).
The original German version shows the three Edukators taking Hardenberg's boat into the Mediterranean to destroy the signal towers on an island that supply most of the television to Western Europe.
Development and characters
The film is influenced by Weingartner's past as a political activist; he declared, "There's some of me in the film," and remarked the importance of it being based on a lived experience. Weingartner declared the film tells the last 10 years of his life in his attempt to find a political movement that could satisfy his ideals. As such, he considers it an auto-biographical film, in which Brühl plays the role of Weingartner. The director opted for having non-violent actions in the film because he considers "it only makes the system stronger" as he cited the Baader-Meinhof gang that "practically killed the Left movement in Germany ... because they gave the police an excuse to really arm up and create a more totalitarian system." Instead, he chose to give the characters a "poetic resistance."
Brühl manifested his esteem for the "very realistic" shot of the film but was not so satisfied with character's authenticity. The actor felt "attached" to the character and liked his "courage to want to change the way things are going, to act to defend his beliefs." In spite of it, he asserted that "It's very utopian and naive, that they take so much risk to break into some rich man's house to move things around." Brühl characterised the characters as "poetic rebels – a very cinematic invention."
The authenticity was also part of the character's three-way relationship as it was "very important" to Weingartner, who himself lived this kind of relationship. At first, the actors were not convinced Peter could forgive Jan and Jule's betrayal. Through it, Weingartner explores his concept of friendship in the film; he affirmed, "friendship means more to him than bourgeois moral values. Peter loves Jule – he doesn't own her. He can tell that when she falls in love with Jan, their love is a wonderful thing, coloured by a joint rebellion – a shared rejection of social constraint."
Production and filming
Weingartner stated he received an offer, for "which I would not have to work for the rest of my life," from an American studio but refused it. He opted to produce the film under his own studio, y3film, and at coop99, an Austrian studio. Considered a low-budget film, Weingartner funded it with a loan of 250,000 euro he managed to raise by selling his parents' house. Weingartner's second feature film, The Edukators was shot digitally with hand-held digital cameras. This decision allowed the director "to explore the space and give actors license to go wherever they wanted." He wanted to use the minimum possible of technical complexities to focus on the actors. Also, the decision to have a low budget was deliberate as he asserted, "More money means more pressure. This way, I used a limited crew and was able to set the shooting schedule the way I wanted it - usually. The huge advantage of this kind of film-making is that it's rapid." The most of the film was shot in Berlin, while the scene in the Austrian alps was shot in Austria.
The character of Peter was written for Erceg, as Weingartner had seen him acting "in a friend's film." Brühl's was already a popular actor in Germany and his career was observed by the director, who saw on him himself and a "perfect match" for Erceg. Klaußner was cast because, according to Weingartner, "I knew the energy and vibe between us was right." The most difficult role to cast was Jule: Weingartner lasted eight months searching for someone for the role, and when he found Jentsch she had already been hired for another film. As he was sure that Jentsch was "the perfect cast," Weingartner even rescheduled the filming days and split it into two parts.
Weingartner commented that the film is "about economic revolution, about poor vs. rich." He also tried to explore in the film the fact that, in his opinion, "Today, we live in a society in which revolution is on sale." However, it deals with "lots of themes," and "the theme of revolution, of rebellion," and of "how a person can change the course of his life" are the main ones. Similarly, Brühl commented that "there are different things you can take out of it" as the film further has as generational conflit, and stories of love and friendship.
Hardenberg's "psycho-sexual powerplay" against the main characters while in the Alps stands for what Weingartner considers "a betrayal of European Left by hippie-era survivors including Joschka Fischer, Gerhard Schroder — and Tony Blair."
Even if the subject of the film is political, Weingartner said, "the whole idea of 'Edukating' is playful. The movie is full of jokes. And happiness. I read somewhere that kids laugh out loud more than 150 times a day. Adults laugh only 10 times a day. Well, I want people to laugh. I want people to go see the film and have fun."
Release and reception
Accolades and public reception
The Edukators premiered on 17 May at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, where it received a standing ovation, and was nominated for the Palme d'Or. Cinematographers Daniela Knapp and Matthias Schellenberg were nominated for the 2004 Camerimage. It won the Giraldillo de Plata, the 2nd Best Film Award, at the 2004 Seville European Film Festival. At the same year, Brühl was nominated for a European Film Award for Best Actor. In the division German Cinema New Talent Award of the 2004 Munich Film Festival, Weingärtner was awarded Best Director, Erceg was awarded Best Actor, and Weingärtner and Held were awarded Special Jury-Award.
Erceg and Jentsch were nominated for the 2005 New Faces Award. During the 2005 German Film Awards, it shared the Best Feature Film in Silver with Sophie Scholl – The Final Days, Klaußner won the Best Supporting Actor, and it was nominated for Best Director Award. The film won the Best Film Award and Jentsch won the Best Actress Award at the 2005 German Film Critics Association Awards. At the 2005 Bavarian Film Awards, Jentsch won the Best Newcomer Actress Award. It shared the Audience Award for Best Dramatic Feature at the 2005 Miami International Film Festival with The Overture and Red Dust. In 2006, the film won the Buried Treasure Award at the Chlotrudis Awards.
The film debuted in German film theaters on 25 November 2004, and on the following day in Austria. According to the European Audiovisual Observatory, The Edukators was attended by over 1.4 million people in Europe—of which almost 890,000 admissions were in Germany, 71,000 in Austria, and 67,000 in Switzerland. The highest attendance the film reached in non-German-speaking countries was in France with over 72,000 visitors, followed by Turkey with almost 69,000. Box Office Mojo reports it has grossed a total amount of $8,152,859 in Argentina, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. On the film's home countries it has grossed $4,540,541 and $479,678—in Germany and Austria respectively. Since its release, it has become a "cult film," according to CBS News, and "a landmark film and international cultural phenomena," as wrote The Epoch Times.
The film was generally well received by critics. Based on 75 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 69%, with an average score of 6.5/10. The website's consensus reads, "The Edukators engagingly plays out the clash between youthful idealism and older pragmaticism." By comparison, Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 68, based on 28 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews." On the other hand, Stephanie Bunbury of The Age wrote that in German it was a "huge hit," while "Abroad, however, it has been the butt of plenty of criticism. It is too earnest, too naive, too Teutonic and sincere."
Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal called it "an uncommonly smart and interesting" film, while Austin Chronicle 's Marc Savlov qualified it as a "smart, kicky little gem that owes as much to Guy Debord and the Situationists." It was deemed "a rare film that gets smarter as it goes along" by Sean Axmaker of Seattle Post-Intelligencer as it "inject[s] a satisfying dash of pragmatism every time it seems ready to slip into either unearned idealism or cynical fatalism." Ray Bennett, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, said, "The Edukators is that rare beast, a terrific movie that boasts intelligent wit, expert storytelling, delightful characters and grown-up dialogue plus suspense and a wicked surprise ending."
A. O. Scott of The New York Times commented that, despite "its shortcomings" on the political subjects, it "succeeds brilliantly in telling the story of a man who falls in love with his best buddy's girlfriend and doesn't know what to do about it." Los Angeles Times critic Carina Chocano concluded that it was "A sweet, funny and gripping romantic adventure, it's about the limitations of political activism in this day and age, and what happens when your girlfriend and your best friend fall in love." Tim Appelo of Seattle Weekly praised "the marvelous acting, the sensitive, utterly realistic treatment of the young-love triangle," asserting that "The Edukators is educational—not intellectually, but emotionally." Stephen Hunter, a critic for The Washington Post, commended the fact that "The whole thing feels messy, painful, funny and believable, just like that hideous circus known as real life." The Times ' Howard Swains declared it "manages to combine political discourse, a love-triangle and a hostage plot, all without sacrificing its graceful humour."
In contrast, Orlando Sentinel 's Roger Moore dubed it "A surprisingly generic German 'Stockholm Syndrome' romantic triangle thriller," and commented that "It ends interestingly, but it would've ended better, and played better, had it been half an hour shorter." Writing for Slant Magazine, Jason Clark affirmed it needed a "a touch of the perverse" but "Weingartner plays out the drama far too earnestly, and the story barely sustains the length of a movie half of its running time." Jack Mathews of New York Daily News stated, "The dialogue between the captive and the captors gets a little didactic, and the ending is as contrived as it is cynical." Similar critics regarding its "didacticism" were done by Brett Michel of Boston Phoenix, Kriss Allison of Stylus Magazine, and Glenn Whipp of Los Angeles Daily News.
Andre Wright for The Stranger wrote, "[it] starts strong, with an ingratiatingly anarchic vibe, but quickly devolves into a dust-dry, hectoring socialist lecture: a cinematic version of Kenner's My First Revolution playset." Jonathan Romney of The Independent remarked that Weingartner "presents his indictment of the System in crudely stacked terms that make The Edukators very much a teen movie rather than a plausible political statement." Wendy Ide in The Times said, "What could have been an effective piece of drama, a dialogue to cause both sides to question the very foundations of their belief systems, is just a two-hour rant from a wispy bearded idealist whose idea of brotherhood is to sleep with his best friend's girlfriend."
In 2006, a so-called group "Hamburg for free", whose members—left-wing activists—dressed up as superheroes, was robbing food from upper-class stores and distribute to German underclass. The media has considered the crimes to be inspired by the film, and some protesters showed T-shirts and banners written "Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei", the film's original title.
In 2009, a statue stolen from Bernard Madoff was returned with a note that read "Bernie the Swindler, Lesson: Return stolen property to rightful owners" and was signed by "The Educators". This is a reference to the film, although in the film they did not tend to steal from the houses they broke into.
Notes and references
- The original German title translates literally as "the fat years are over". Die fetten Jahre is a German expression originating from the story of Joseph in Egypt as found in the Luther Bible, a reference to the scarcity that will follow his "fat days." The official translation of the statement as used in the film and the subtitle to the English-language release was "Your days of plenty are numbered".
- "The Edukators (2005)". Box Office Mojo. See: "Summary" and "Foreign".
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- Bunbury, Stephanie (8 May 2005). "Carry on the Revolution". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- Scott, A. O. (22 July 2005). "The Edukators (2004)". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
- "Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei (Original Ending)". YouTube. 20 November 2006. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
- "Press Conference: "Die Fetten Jahre sind Vorbei" ("The Edukators")". Cannes Film Festival. 17 May 2004. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- Molitorisz, Sacha (13 May 2005). "Children of the revolution". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- Achour, Bernard (2004). "Hans Weingartner: Hello, Germany!" (in French). Cineman. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- y3film; coop99; UGC Films. "The Edukators production notes" (21 KB .DOC file; HTML version). Cinematic Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- Dalton, Stephen (14 April 2005). "All we are saying is peace in our time". The Times (News UK) (68361): 17. Retrieved 8 December 2014. (subscription required (. ))
- Hunter, Stephen (5 August 2005). "Teaching the Bigs a Thing or Two". The Washington Post. Nash Holdings. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- "Sex intrudes on the class war". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. 15 April 2005. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "Berlin wird Filmstar". Berliner Morgenpost (in German). 22 May 2005. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- Bida, Aleksandra (2012). "The Edukators / Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei". In Ingram, Susan. World Film Locations: Berlin. Intellect Books. p. 98.
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- "Twenty culture ministers on the red carpet for "The Edukators"". Cannes Film Festival. 17 May 2004. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- Holloway, Ron (2004). "Cannes 2004 Report". Kinema. University of Waterloo. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
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- "2004: The Nomations". European Film Academy. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- "2004: The Winners". European Film Academy. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
- "German Cinema New Talent Award". Munich Film Festival. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- "new faces award: Die Nominierten". Fan Lexikon (in German). 17 June 2005. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- "Preistäger 2005" (in German). German Film Awards. Archived from the original on 16 October 2006. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
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- Klatell, James (17 August 2006). "Youth's Resentful Protest In Germany". CBS News. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- Louk, Lidia (23 September 2007). "Interview: Hans Weingartner". The Epoch Times. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
- "The Edukators (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
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- Morgenstern, Joe (29 July 2005). "Diane Lane Is Fetching But 'Must Love Dogs' Is a Romance Without Bite". The Wall Street Journal. News Corp. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Savlov, Marc (19 August 2005). "The Edukators". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- Axmaker, Sean (4 August 2005). "Limited movie runs: 'Save the Green Planet,' 'The Edukators'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- Bennett, Ray (18 May 2004). "The Edukators". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on 18 March 2005. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- Chocano, Carina (29 July 2005). "Smart and poignant, and that can be revolutionary". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Publishing). See: Page 1 (Archived from the original on 29 May 2010) and Page 2 (Archived from the original on 29 May 2010).
- Miller, Brina; Appelo, Tim; Schindler, Neal (August 2005). "This Week's Attractions". Seattle Weekly. Archived from the original on 20 November 2005. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Swains, Howard (27 October 2004). "The Edukators". The Times. News UK. Retrieved 8 December 2014. (subscription required (. ))
- Moore, Roger (2 September 2005). "3 characters, too much talking". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Clark, Jason (2005). "Film Review - The Edukators". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on 20 November 2005. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
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- Michel, Brett (August 2005). "Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei / The Edukators". Boston Phoenix. Phoenix Media/Communications Group. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Allison, Kriss (28 July 2005). "The Edukators - Movie Review". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Whipp, Glenn (29 July 2005). "Didactic misanthropy". Los Angeles Daily News. MediaNews Group. Retrieved 1 November 2014 – via High Beam.
- Steinbacher, Bradley; Mudede, Charles; Wright, Andrew (August 2005). "On Screen". The Stranger. Index Newspapers. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Romney, Jonathan (17 April 2005). "The Edukators review". The Independent (Independent Print Limited). Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
- Ide, Wendy (14 April 2005). "The Edukators". The Times (News UK) (68361): 13. Retrieved 8 December 2014. (subscription required (. ))
- Harding, Luke (17 May 2006). "A merry band". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- Ulrich, Andreas (19 August 2006). "Robin Hood or Robbery?". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
- "Bernie Madoff taught ethics lesson by statue thieves". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). 1 January 2009. Archived from the original on 29 May 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
- Goldstein, Gregg (25 April 2006). "Anderson to helm redo of 'Edukators'". The Hollywood Reporter (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved 29 May 2010 – via High Beam.
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