My late father-in-law told me long ago that judging a movie’s worth involves determining how much it disturbs you. He believed that a great movie stays in your brain for a while.
I discovered the wisdom of my father-in-law’s words after recently seeing three seemingly disparate movies: “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “The Baader-Meinhof Complex,” and “Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust.”
All three movies distressed me. Michael Moore’s movie is distressing because the current economic crisis is mostly our fault.
We have allowed the “Wall Street” mentality (of quick profits over people) to dominate our society.
We have allowed our federal government to give billions to America’s richest few and very little money to our hard-working middle class who (like the farmers of the Dust Bowl era) are being forced to leave their land.
Most disturbing of all, we have demonized those who dare question the system.
Uli Edel’s, “The Baader-Meinhof Complex” was even more distressing than was Michael Moor’s movie. Mr. Edel’s movie exposes several myths about the Red Army Faction, commonly known as the Baader-Meinhof Group.
This group was not communist-inspired, with members from the communist bloc of countries. They were West German citizens who had a number of justifiable grievances against the West German government and society.
They were disturbed with a West German Government that acquitted a cop accused of killing a young man protesting the Shah of Iran’s visit to West Germany; while jailing students for exercising their right to protest.
They were alienated from a West German society that largely remained silent during the Third Reich’s era or terror.
Uli Edel does not glorify nor demonize members of the Baader-Meinoff Group. He portrays them as idealistic, conflicted and frustrated people. Ulrike Marie Meinhof is a noted left-wing journalist. She was frustrated because the voices of the left are being stifled in West Germany. You leave the movie theatre empathetic (though not sympathetic) to her plight.
You leave the theatre with empathy (though not sympathy) for the German Federal Police. Mr. Edel does not portray its members as demons or angels, but rather as people who had a hard and tough job to do that had the blessing of a panic-stricken West German populace.
Uli Edel thus portrays the nuisances of the events that unfold. He affords the movie audience the opportunity to makes its own judgments.
Michael Moore rarely does either. His movies usually have an easily identifiable evil people or group and a good person or two (including himself) who tries to save the innocent town folk. Sounds like a good old-fashioned western. Like the westerns of old, Michael Moore presents complicated relationships and issues in stark black and white.
He certainly knows how to make a good Hollywood-type movie that gets the people into the movie theatre, which is not necessary bad.
Daniel Anker’s, “Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust,” documents Hollywood’s treatment of the Holocaust. Nearly all of the released Holocaust movies contain the Hollywood code of optimism, final justice, and Americans (or a few other Germans, like Oskar Schindler) as liberators of the innocent but passive Jewish people. Nearly all of these movies portrayed the moral actions of the German people, Western European Governments, and America in black and white tones.
Anker questions this portrayal of the Holocaust. He shows, for example, that the original movie adaptation of the “Diary of Anne Frank,” is too optimistic about human nature, especially during a holocaust.
Three movies that make you question.
What are the movies coming too?