The State I Am In (2000)

“You can’t love someone and live in hiding.”

The State I Am In (Der Innere Sicherheit), a 2000 film from German director Christian Petzold is another title to add to the coterie of tales surrounding the Red Army Faction. Unfortunately, The Baader Meinhof Komplex (2008) will probably go down in the re-written annals of history as the film to watch, and that will ultimately give the general public its ‘knowledge’ about this significant urban terrorist group. The Baader Meinhof Komplex is wildly entertaining in a Bonnie and Clyde sort of way, but it’s grating and its highly controversial presentation and preposterous ending is likely to be swallowed whole and undigested by its audience.

And this brings me back to The State I Am In. It’s a much quieter film and for the microscopic examination of its characters, it takes just a tiny slice of Red Army Faction history. It’s possible to watch the film and miss the Red Army Faction connection altogether as The State I Am In isn’t a thriller, full of shoot-’em up chase scenes. Instead The State I Am In follows fugitive members of the RAF who are discovering that as the years pass, their survival is becoming more and more difficult.

Clara (Barbara Auer) and Hans (Richy Muller) have been on the run for about 15 years. They lead a nomadic existence laced with paranoia. They have a child together named Jeanne (Julia Hummer)–a teenager who’s getting more than a bit fed up with her life. She has no friends, doesn’t attend school, and any strangers she strikes up a conversation with are immediately suspect. When the film begins, an edge of desperation has crept into their fugitive lives, and there’s the sense that they are collectively reaching the end of the line. Clara, Hans and Jeanne are in Portugal, but they’re hardly on holiday. Someone has arranged to meet them but he doesn’t show, and while Clara and Hans try to digest and interpret that information, they are robbed of the money they have left. This robbery heralds a chain of events that sets them loose on a trek back to Germany.

Red Army Faction member Bommi Baumann described living on the run in his excellent memoir How It All Began: A Personal Account of a West German Urban Guerilla, and he explains how fugitives need people living legitimate lives willing to offer support. As the state net closes around Clara, Hans, and Jeanne, this idea came to mind as I watched The State I Am In. The friends that Clara and Hans used to rely on have mostly moved on to the sort of bourgeois lives they fought against. Some of their old friends are still trustworthy–take Klaus (Gunther Maria Halmer) for example, whose fondness for Clara leads him to take chances.

Interestingly, the film’s focus is not on Clara and Hans but Jeanne. While her parents have chosen the path they’ve taken, Jeanne has no say whatsoever in her life. This was probably fine when she was 5, but now Jeanne has a mind of her own, and more than anything else she would like to be ‘normal’ and have friends. There’s one scene when Clara and Hans visit a now affluent old friend they intend to pressure for money, and once in the house, Jeanne, follows the sound of an attractive song upstairs where she discovers a young girl, Paulina (Katharina Schuttler) about her own age. Jeanne bums a cigarette and the two girls share a moment over the music. Meanwhile the visit downstairs is going badly, and Jeanne, who’s made a tentative new friend, is wrenched away and soon back fleeing for her life once again.

Things really go wrong however when Jeanne meets a young German man, Heinrich (Bilge Bingul), and her loyalties and desires are ripped apart. Heinrich was no doubt just a toddler when the Red Army Faction were active, and Heinrich, although in many ways underprivileged and disenfranchised connects with the image of Brian Wilson while he leads a simple, hard-working life. He’s attracted to Jeanne because he senses she’s so different. And he’s right, of course; he just has no idea how different.

The film’s very best scenes depict Jeanne’s interactions with her parents. Clara, who’s probably the hardest of the group, spends time educating Jeanne, but most of the education is pitched towards survival. There’s one great scene when Jeanne goes on a shoplifting spree and Clara’s rage is unleashed. Contrary to the typical parental stance, Clara’s rage is at the stupidity of Jeanne’s actions since her thefts could cause them to be caught.

Whereas The Baader Meinhof Komplex concentrates on the action while it tries to simplify, homogenize and recuperate (in the Situationist sense) the actions of its members, The State I Am In concentrates on the hellish life of the fugitive. While The Baader Meinhof Komplex shows the RAF sporting naked in the sun and communal naked bathing and fails to mention the political theory behind this MARXIST group, The State I Am In avoids specifying exactly what Clara and Hans’s past actions were and instead concentrates on showing the toll of living as a paranoid fugitive for 15 years. While Clara and Hans have accepted the yoke of their decisions, the film poses the question: do they have the right to inflict those moral choices on their daughter? And naturally this leads to the argument that revolutionaries have no business having children.

The State I Am In will not be so widely watched a  film as the glitzy well-publicized Baader Meinhof Komplex extravaganza. And that’s a shame.

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