Jan and Peter, two disaffected young men, spend their nights driving round Berlin and breaking into rich people’s villas. Once inside though, they don’t steal anything – rather, they rearrange furniture and leave a note: Your days of plenty are numbered or You have too much money. As Jan explains in the film, it’s a more effective way to unsettle their perceived enemy.
They dub themselves The Edukators, but their plans go awry one night though, when Jule, Peter’s girlfriend, joins Jan on an evening ride while Peter is away in Barcelona. Jule owes 94,500 Euros to a German businessman Hardenberg whose Mercedes she ran into one night. She’s struggling to make ends meet and the chance to edukate’ Hardenberg is one she finds difficult to pass up.
Cue Hardenberg walking in on the pair, a kidnap and one rather messy love triangle. The Edukators is a marvellously entertaining and thought provoking film that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of contemporary German cinema, such as Good Bye Lenin! and Run Lola Run.
What makes the film so good is the performances from the four main actors. Daniel Brhl, who made a big impression in the aforementioned Good Bye Lenin! shows that is the next big European actor to watch. Jan is not an easy part to play, his intensity and moodiness sometimes making him difficult to like, but Brhl’s charisma means the audience is always rooting for him. He seems certain to follow actors such as Gael Garca Bernal into mainstream success.
Of his fellow cast members, Julia Jentsch also impresses as Jule, the vulnerable woman at the end of her tether while Stipe Erceg, while somewhat overshadowed by Bruhl’s performance, is excellent as Jan’s partner in crime. Top acting honours though have to go to Burghart Klauner as Hardenberg, a man coming to terms with the abandonment of his younger, more liberal ideals.
The nearest mainstream equivalent to The Edukators would probably be Fight Club, a film with similar political theories lying behind it. Yet while David Fincher’s masterpiece was filled with technical wizardry, here director Hans Weingartner keeps things simple, allowing the actors room to perform. Weingartner’s script, co-written with Katharina Held, offers no easy answers, instead posing the question of whether it is possible to stay idealistic as age catches up with you.
Topped up with an excellent ending that is already being feverishly debated by online fans, The Edukators is a refreshingly different film that should appeal to many in today’s atmosphere of political disillusion. One day, this may be picked up by a Hollywood studio and turned into a wacky screwball comedy starring Ashton Kutcher, Leonardo DiCaprio and Renee Zellwegger – until that dismal day, go and catch this now.