The Edukators

The Edukators


Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Jan (Daniel Brühl) and Peter (Stipe Erceg), the self-styled "edukators" of the title, are a couple of disillusioned Berliners who sneak into rich folks' houses and rearrange their furniture. They don't break anything, steal anything or hurt anyone. They just move a few tables and chairs and hide the stereo in the kitchen cupboard. It's an unusual approach that sends out a clear message - we know where you live and we're watching you.

Writer/director Hans Weingartner's semi-autobiographical story of youthful rebellion gives a voice to misfits like Jan and Peter, idealists who want to change the world but still find themselves marginalized and ignored.

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Jan walks around with a permanent scowl, probably from the weight of the chip on his shoulder, and believes he can move mountains simply by moving someone's sofa from one side of the room to the other. He means well, but what does he expect from his childish stunts? That his well-heeled victims will return home and think, "Oh my God, they moved my chaise-longue, I must rush out and give all my money to the needy?"

Peter is more laid back and pragmatic. He goes along with Jan's revolutionary mumbo-jumbo but has no qualms about helping himself to the spoils of war. He pockets a Rolex and tells Jan he can get five grand for it, but a furious Jan grabs it and throws it away. Ever the martyr, he'd rather go hungry than profit from the fat cats' ill-gotten gains.

Weingartner sets himself some fairly easy targets - greedy businessmen, overbearing bosses, bullying officials - but isn't afraid to question Jan's motives and poke fun at his cloud cuckoo idealism.

Peter's girlfriend Jule (Julia Jentsch) thinks Jan's a nutcase, but Jule has a lot more in common with him than she'd like to admit. She has her own problems - a dead end job waiting on tables and a mountain of debt as a result of a car crash - and, like Jan, she feels she doesn't belong. When Peter goes on holiday and leaves her with Jan, an unlikely friendship develops that quickly develops into something more than just friendship.

Jan agrees to take her on his next furniture-arranging escapade and, perhaps a little too fortuitously plot-wise, they conveniently end up outside the house of the wealthy businessman who took Jule to court after she rammed his brand new Mercedes. The businessman, Hardenberg (Burghart Klaussner), has a fleet of luxury cars and hardly needs the cash, but he insists anyway, condemning Jule, on her meagre salary, to a lifetime of crippling monthly payments.

The opportunity to exact revenge is too good to miss and she goads Jan into breaking the edukators' code of non-violence, ransacking the house and tossing a sofa into the swimming pool. They return the next night after Jule realises she has left her mobile somewhere in the house, but Hardenberg surprises them and catches them in the act. Jan knocks him to the ground and then, not knowing what else to do, calls Peter, even if that means risking exposing his affair with Jule.

Klaussner, who played Bruhl's long-lost father in Goodbye Lenin!, gives another beautifully understated performance, especially once the edukators take Hardenberg hostage and hide out in a remote mountain cabin. Hardenberg is a bit of a mystery - he challenges Jan's idealism but at the same time admires his commitment to "the cause". He even sees something of himself in Jan - he, too, used to be a dreamer, an angry young man, and he, too, wanted to change the world before real life got in the way.

Are we supposed to believe Hardenberg? Does he really sympathise with Jan, or is he just playing games with him until he can find a way out? Weingartner keeps us guessing and the deliberately ambiguous ending offers plenty of possibilities but no answers. And it's all the more satisfying for that.

Reviewed on: 28 Mar 2005
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The Edukators packshot
Political activists want to change the world by "edukating" the rich.
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Director: Hans Weingartner

Writer: Katharina Held, Hans Weingartner

Starring: Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, Stipe Erceg, Burghart Klaussner

Year: 2004

Runtime: 126 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany/Austria


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