Review: Who if not us (2011)


Director: Andres Veiel | 121 minutes | drama, history | Actors: August Diehl, Lena Lauzemis, Alexander Fehling, Thomas Thieme, Imogen Kogge, Michael Wittenborn, Susanne Lothar, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Vicky Krieps, Johannes Allmayer, Carmen-Maja Antoni, Joachim Paul Assböck, Peter Benedict, Lutz Blochberger, Greta Bohacek, Martin Butzke, Heike Hanold-Lynch

When “Der Baader Meinhof Complex” was released, director Uli Edel was accused of “hero worship”. It was felt that the filmmaker would express too much appreciation for the RAF terrorists, who play a leading role in his film. Although “hero worship” may go a bit far, one can indeed wonder whether all the action scenes have indeed blurred the view of reality somewhat in Noble’s film. After all, the action genre makes you cheer rather quickly for the person who pulls the trigger.

In that respect one can see “Wer wenn nicht wir” as a second chance. This film also tells about the RAF, but exchanges the spectacular bombings and massacres for an intimate portrait of co-founder Gudrun Ensslin. It is not the “highlight” of her life that is central here, but rather the political maturation of the girl Ensslin who in her youth tries to deal with the Nazi past of her homeland, but just as well with a few personal demons. Even more than ‘Der Baader-Meinhof Complex’, this produces a film that relies on well-acted scenes and fine nuances. What you will see here is a feature film that lacks any form of glamor.

What the film focuses on in particular is the relationship that Ensslin had with Bernward Vesper, a troubled boy who cannot get over the fact that his father deliberately sided with the Nazis during the war and who put him on his deathbed. asks to re-publish his poems. It will ultimately be the love of literature that will bring him and Ensslin together, but it turns out to be a difficult relationship from the start. The still young student Gudrun turns out to be a lot more fierce in character than is good for Bernward and as their relationship intensifies he gets more and more carried away in the radicalization she is experiencing.

In the end it would literally turn out to be an unhappy marriage between the radical Ensslin and the somewhat shy Bernward. Where she is getting more and more carried away in political radicalization, he has more and more trouble keeping up with her and as a result their relationship is dealt with many a blow. It is not for nothing that Veiel pays so much attention to this relationship between the two young literature students. Although he has a good eye for the political circumstances of West Germany after the Second World War, which is repeatedly confronted with its Nazi past and, moreover, has to conform to the wishes of the American occupier, Veiel also shows the personal circumstances that formed the RAF. Where “Der Baader-Meinhof Complex” paints the picture of a deliberate political movement (at least in the early days), “Wer wenn nicht wir” raises doubts about that certainty. If the relationship with Vesper had been better, Veiel seems to want to say, the question is whether Ensslin would have been seduced into left-wing activism. Whether “Wer wenn nicht wir” should be seen as a “remake” to tell the story of the RAF will mainly depend on your personal preference for how you think history stories should be brought to the silver screen. What is certain is that it is a nice addition to the list of films that try to tell the German history shortly after the Second World War. A history that has not been filmed nearly as often as the war itself, but which is perhaps even more interesting because of its complexity. It may be clear that both this “addition” and “resit” deserve to be seen.

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