The Use of Fact and Fiction in Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex
The present essay aims to discuss the way fact and fiction are intertwined in Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex (film) in order to portray the main characters of the story and the course of events that are the subject of the film. The film was directed by Uli Edel (released in September 2008) and based on the non-fiction book of the same title by Stefan Aust, first published in 1985. The film presents the story of the so-called first generation of the Red Army Faction (RAF, Rote Arme Fraktion) group (also known as the Baader-Meinhof group) and its main players as well as how they and their actions inspired others to join their cause and to become what would later be labelled as the second and third generation of RAF. The essay will predominantly concentrate on the way in which the filmmakers attempt the? construction of the authenticity of the story as opposed to creating a completely fictional feature film. It is argued that the ‘authenticity’ is achieved through the use of original footage, the presentation of characters and the representation of violence and the essay attempts to show how all this was used in order to demythologise the actions of RAF. In order to understand the construction of the film and the way the characters in it are presented a short (description of the) history of the RAF movement is needed. The Red Army Faction was a far-left-wing militant group that was active from 1970 to 1998. Its history is divided into three ‘generations’. The founding members and major figures in the “first generation” were Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof (a respected journalist and campaigner), Gudrun Enslin (a student of German literature and philosophy) and Horst Mahler (an established lawyer). It is because of the surnames of two of its members that the first generation is referred to as ‘The Baader-Meinhof Group’. They were active from 1970 until their suicide in Stammheim prison in 1977. The ‘second generation’ were active from the mid till late 1970s. The main players here were Susanne Albrecht, Christian Klar and Brigitte Mohnhaupt. It was this generation that killed Jürgen Ponto, abducted and killed Hans Martin Schleyer and organised the kidnapping of the Lufthansa Flight 181. These events of 1977 as well as others are known as the ‘German Autumn’. The “third generation” was active from around 1980 till the dissolution of the group in 1998. The main figure here was Wolfgang Grams (Preece 2010: 152). The origins of the Red Army Faction lie in the social and political situation in West Germany in the 1960s as well as in the events that took place in other parts of the world at the time, in particular the Vietnam War, but also the student massacre that took place in Mexico in October 1968 just a few days before the beginning of the Olympics, the events in Bolivia including the execution of Che Guevara and the student movements in Europe and America. The 1960s were also the end of colonialism in the world thus marking the end of a certain era and the beginning of a new chapter in the social history of the world. However, more important was the socio-political situation in West Germany itself. West Germany witnessed important changes in the 1960s both in politics and society. After the departure of Konrad Adenauer in 1962 and Ludwig Erhard (former Minister of Economics in Adenauer’s Government) becoming the Chancellor the following year and implementing the soziale Marktwirtschaft (‘social market economy’), West Germany experienced a period of economic prosperity. At about the same time, however, the Große Koalition (‘the Grand Coalition’) was formed between CDU / CSU and the SPD and Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who had been a member of NSDAP from 1933-1945, became the Chancellor. In addition, many of the civil servants, economists and politicians at the time were either former members of the NSDAP or had cooperated with the Nazi regime in the past. This led many to...
References: Primary sources:
Edel, Uli (director). 2008. Der Baader Meinhof Komplex. Constantin Film Produktion.
Spielberg, Steven. 2005. Munich. Universal Studios.
www.baadermeinhofmovie.com (date of access: 1.12.2012)
Kaplan, Fred. 2009. “A Match that Burned the Germans”. New York Times. 12.08.2009
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/16/movies/16kapl.html?_r=1 date of access: 4.12.2012).
Preece, Julian. 2003. “Between identification and documentation, ‘autofiction’ and ‘biopic’: the lives of the RAF”. German life and letters 56: 4, pp. 363-376.
Preece, Julian. 2010. “The Lives of the RAF revisited: The biographical turn”. Memory Studies 3(2), pp. 151-163.
Wasmund, Klaus. 1986. “The Political Socialisation of West German Terrorists”, in: Peter M. Merkl Political Violence and Terror. Motifs and Motivations. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 191-228.
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