German film fans aren't just spending their time preparing to be offended by Valkyrie and Inglorious Bastards. They're also preparing to hate the biggest German-language movie of the year, Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, a big-budget, star-studded drama about the eponymous gang who wreaked havoc throughout West Germany in the seventies. Produced by Bernd Eichinger (Downfall), and starring a who's who of young German actors, Baader Meinhof doesn't open until September 25, but its producers have already completely screwed up. In an attempt to maintain secrecy about a movie on an explosive topic, the producers screened the movie for critics — but forced them to sign a contract that restricted them from writing about or even talking about the movie before its release date, with a penalty of 100,000 euros for those journalists who disobeyed.
100,000 euros! At current exchange rates that's like $7 million! Needless to say, German film critics are up in arms. The German society of journalists, Deutscher Journalisten-Verband, has filed a formal protest, and multiple papers have belittled the policy. The harshest criticism comes from Rüdiger Suchsland of Telepolis, who writes (translated on the fly by the indispensable GreenCine Daily):
Obviously, Der Baader Meinhof Komplex is a botched film. There's no other explanation for Constantin's loss of control and hysterical behavior. There's a fear that word of the poor quality of the film will get out. Evidently, the film is so weak that it can be damaged by a bad review or even a falsely phrased rave … These unloved journalists are clearly worth as much bounty as the RAF [Baader-Meinhof] terrorists were once to the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA). The terrorists, too, were once worth 100,000 German marks — per head.
The producers are likely shrugging, since the movie will sell many, many tickets in Germany no matter what. But their boneheaded move certainly hurts the film's critical chances and makes us way less interested in the movie — despite its cool trailer. Though we did take enough German to know what Moritz Bleibtreu's constant shouts of "Scheiße!" mean, we can't say we understand anything else — but big explosions are the universal language of kino.
The Baader Meinhof hoopla [GreenCine Daily]