Dressed in a black coat, black-and-white shawl, and white-tipped black heels, actress Tovah Feldshuh wiped tears from her eyes after the U.S. premiere of The Baader Meinhof Complex, a docudrama directed by Uli Edels that follows the downward path of young German terrorists in the 1970s. The event was sponsored by The Atlantic.
“I was very affected by it,” she said in the lobby of the Upper East Side theater. “It was a very, very great part of my own youth, and there is not a bone in my body that supports this kind of behavior—not a bone in my body. But this behavior did not root from insanity; it rooted from an extreme reaction to oppressive circumstances.”
“The actors were superb,” Ms. Feldshuh added. “They didn’t cater to the sympathy of the audience.”
Not everyone was so enamored. During a question-and-answer period with Stefan Aust, the author of the nonfiction book from which the film was adapted, Jeff Lewis of Guggenheim Partners stood up and said, “I found the film disturbingly sympathetic to the gang,” he said, “like the scene of him [one of the terrorists who had been imprisoned] being force-fed. But he’s a killer on a hunger strike.”
“We tried to tell the story as it was,” Mr. Aust explained from his red chair at the front of the theater, near money manager Boykin Curry (who had brought his fancy blond wife, Celerie Kemble* to the screening). “Force-feeding is an act of torture, even against people who’ve killed others.”
Mr. Aust said further that while revolution may have seemed “glamorous” at the beginning of the film, once the RAF terrorists had gone underground and started killing people outright, their situation could only deteriorate.
“It looked like a fascist police state for them because they were on the run,” he said. “It was a myth, an idea of the revolution that kept them running.”
After the screening, Mr. Aust told the Transom that viewers generally use the film as a “mirror” for their preconceived feelings about the RAF (the Red Army Faction). “They express the views they already have,” he said.
Photographer Harry Benson, who said that he has visited Berlin dozens of times to take photos and witnessed demonstrations every time, surmised that protests may be a “German trait.” “If you went to Berlin tomorrow, you would see a demonstration,” he joked.
Meanwhile, documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles had less to say about the film than he would have liked. “I recently had a change of glasses, so I couldn’t see any of the subtitles,” he admitted with a chuckle, his eyes twinkling behind thick black frames. “Even so, the cinematography was excellent—even though I didn’t know what they were saying.”
*After reading this post, the genial Mr. Curry wrote to correct us: “Celerie isn’t fancy! She spends most of the day in jeans on construction sites. Also, I’m not sure she is actually blonde.” Duly noted, sir!