The three fresh-faced idealists in The Edukators are leftist radicals not unlike the '60s sort famously romanticized by Godard in La Chinoise and the '70s variety mercilessly ridiculed by Fassbinder in The Third Generation. Living the boho life in prosperous Berlin, lissome Jule (Julia Jentsch), rugged Peter (Stipe Erceg) and earnest Jan (Daniel Brühl) are fervent anti-globalizers with their own special angle on changing the world: They break into the houses of rich folks, rearrange the furniture and leave graffiti warning "Your days of plenty are numbered."
It's all provocation-as-illegal-fun until one mission goes awry and they end up kidnapping a solid burgher named Hardenberg (Burghart Klaussner), who not only professes to admire their idealism but claims to have been a leading radical of the 1960s. Is he being honest, and would killing him violate their revolutionary ethics? Those dilemmas would be quite enough, but they are joined by another when the young radicals realize they've stumbled into that thorniest of ideological snares: a romantic triangle.
Directed by Hans Weingartner, The Edukators is an unusually brainy and observant thriller with a timely political edge. Harking back to the glory days of the New German Cinema, the German production mixes sharp social observation, sly wit and a very assured cinematic sense. We've seen very little about political discontent among contemporary European 20-somethings, and Weingartner approaches the subject with a shrewd balance of humane sympathy and healthy skepticism. Aside from a surprisingly misguided ending, the film negotiates a minefield of dramatic issues with impressive aplomb and originality.
The Edukators plays at Galaxy Cinema in cary annd Carolina Theatre in Durham starting Friday.