I remember the Baader-Meinhof trial. I do. I was only five but I remember it being on the ITN news (you know the one with the jaunty jingle that was on after Blue Peter gave up the ghost on the BBC). I remember it because I also remember a wet Sunday afternoon watching Reach For The Skies, the Douglas Bader story, and getting the two Ba(a)ders mixed up. Frankly it did not help that Douglas Bader flew for the RAF (Royal Air Force) and the Baader Meinhof Gang were part of the RAF (Red Army Faction). I suppose it was instructive to my later career as an inveterate liar that all it takes is some random little coincidence to make a story all the more plausible. And that piece of the jigsaw fell in to plae years later when i discovered the theory behind minefields, misremembered the word Meinhof and that explained why Douglas Bader didn’t have any legs in the first place.

All of which to say the nature of memory is fluid, unreliable and downright ropey. Not in a Waltz With Bashir way though, rather how easy it is for us to make up plausible interpretations when we have so few facts. The Baader Meinhof Complex sets about rectifying this kind of problem with its visceral attempt at ramming the whole history of the Red Army Faction, and Baader-Meinhof in particular, into two and a half hours. It more or less succeeds in its history lesson, though it tends to be a bit too breathless to really delve into these characters heads. Therefore Baader comes across as an unstable dictatorial misogynist (showing that he would be just as bad if not worse that those he protested against). Meinhof on the other hand remains a cypher, her move from mother and journalist into direct action seems to be painted as an act of revenge against an adulterous husband. The film does not really suggest that, but as it relies on a linear presentation of facts with a few interpretations, causality does the rest. She appears to have reservations about the groups actions, but is not there to be humanised. None of them are – despite the natural effect of the movies.

It is a good historical primer, but there is a little bit of something in what Clive James says here, regarding filming this stuff at all. The nature of film is to soften, is to turn horrors into action movie sequences. There are moments in the film where my sympathies lie heavily with the Baader-Meinhof Gang just because they are in the role of chased protagonists. Even more worryingly I felt sorry for Gudrun Ensslin who as a core member of the RAF probably deserved her name in the gang more than whack-job Baader. None of these are useful responses to the film which occasionally attempts (via use of the police chief) to wriggle with the WHY, but never quite gets there. Of course we may never know why of all of the late sixties student style protests the german one got the most violent – though there are excellent theories out there. But in drilling into these protagonists we end up being too close, we are in the proson with them but we can’t get in their heads. So a great historical film, but I’ll be hitting the books for analysis. And to see if there is anyway of fitting Kenneth More in there.