“two… three. April fool’s!
Couch in the pool!”

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

The classic “Edukator” prank: Invade an empty mansion, disable the alarm system, rearrange the furniture, misplace some items, and leave a note that says “Your Days of Plenty are Numbered.” When you leave, make sure you don’t leave a gift for the CSIs to uncover, and most important of all, you don’t steal anything from the house.

There’s a philosophy behind this. But mainly, their purpose is to mess the minds of the rich, ratchet up their paranoia, and yes, teach them to be more aware of the world and less about themselves. This puts a twist to the term “home school,” eh?

In the film, we get acquainted with Jule (Julia Jentsch), a waitress trying to pay off a big debt (the poor gal totaled a Mercedes Benz). Barely getting by, she is kicked out of her apartment and eventually resides in her boyfriend Peter’s place. When Peter (Stipe Erceg) travels to Barcelona however, Jule is left with Peter’s intense roommate Jan (Daniel Brühl). First, she is wary of him, but then, chemistry develops between them when they talk about ideal ways to change the world. Jan falls for his roommate’s girl and it’s only a matter of time until he reveals he and Peter are the notorious “edukators.”

On first impression, this German film seems to be lecturing us about this world’s sorry-ass state. Capitalism is evil. Third world countries have children in sweatshops. The idea of revolution is so 1960s; it’s not revolutionary anymore to revolt and so on. But fortunately for us, the characters are more than talking heads. The movie unexpectedly turns into a thriller and the characters are force to confront their emotions and fears. Thinking of ways to better the world – easy. Preventing a bad situation from turning worse – hard.

“The Edukators” is surprisingly adept at creating suspense. I was cringing in my seat, happily aghast that the movie lacks the technical skills to hint ominously. The film is naturally photographed so the visual mood doesn’t offer any clues. There’s no pulsating score to indicate a bad thing is about to happen. Nothing. I was so off-balance. What’s even worse are those lingering shots – you know, just when you think the hero is on the clear, the camera lingers as if to invite a last-minute danger to creep in.

I commend the writers for planting the so-called “bomb under the table.” It only takes one person to go berserk for the whole thing to blow. I like that the characters are more cautious, even keep secrets from each other if necessary. That makes them more credible rather than mere pawns of a calculating screenwriter (see “Derailed”). With a taut and thrilling plot, passionate and smart characters, and unaffected direction by Hans Weingartner, “The Edukators” is a great film and it’s one of those movies that when it ends, a discussion begins. This is some education.

Grade: A

Daniel Brühl, Julia Jentsch, Stipe Erceg, Burghart Klaußner, Peer Martiny, Petra Zieser, Laura Schmidt, and Sebastian Butz
Screenplay by
Katharina Held
Hans Weingartner
Directed by
Hans Weingartner
Rated R for language, a scene of sexuality, and some drug use