Baader-Meinhof

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John
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Baader-Meinhof

Postby John » Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:15 am

The new movie "The Baader Meinhof Complex" is about the group of proto-terrorists for whom I wrote the song 'Cinnamon". I've said before that one of my rock band regrets is that I didn't do more to tie the lyrics of that song to the actual story I wanted to tell--I shied away from literalism, then as now, and thought that an overt reference to the Red Army Faction would have been pandering to my audience. Little did I know how important the context of the lyrics would end up being to me. As much as I was happy for all the different interpretations I got from fans, the song for me played out like a screenplay: a very literal-minded story of two lovers in early-70's Germany whose Marxist political convictions got tangled up with their passion for each other and their run from the law. I saw this image so clearly projected in the lyrics and music it wasn't until months after Pretend to Fall was released that I realized there was almost nothing in the song itself to direct people to this interpretation.

In the case of most of our songs, the fact that the lyrics do not point directly at their inspiration is either a blessing, (where the inspiration for the lyrics is more banal than the lyrics themselves), or at least bearable, (in the sense that the meaning of the song is not lost for lack of context), but when I wrote the Commander Thinks Aloud I was chastened enough by my Cinnamon experience to be both more explicit, and also title the song accordingly.

Anyway, I write this only to encourage everyone to see the film The Baader Meinhof Complex. I was very interested in the group when I was a teenager and wrote Cinnamon as a piece of speculative fiction: does political idealism trump love when the chips are down?

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Liesbeth
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Re: Baader-Meinhof

Postby Liesbeth » Tue Sep 01, 2009 11:00 am

Wow, this story behind the song is so far removed from what I read from it, that it doesn't even bother me to know this (and I'm pretty peculiar about lyrics spoilers, as y'all may know). By the way, did you really mean to write 'for whom I wrote the song'? Not 'about whom', or 'who inspired me' or something like that? It sounds kinda admiring.

I have a strange thing with the Baader-Meinhoff group and other European 70's terrorist organizations: growing up as a fairly idealistic teen in the 80s, at that time those groups felt as a thing of the past (main members being in prison or dead by that time), but such a recent past that in my mind their existence in a sense tainted all idealism. So instead of being fascinated by these groups, they scared me in what ideology could amount to and I greatly resented their legacy.

does political idealism trump love when the chips are down?

I'd say to the diehard activist to put love before ideals would have been the most bourgeois thing possible and therefore utterly despicable...

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sour29
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Re: Baader-Meinhof

Postby sour29 » Tue Sep 01, 2009 12:02 pm

Liesbeth wrote:... did you really mean to write 'for whom I wrote the song'? Not 'about whom', or 'who inspired me' or something like that? It sounds kinda admiring.

This was my initial reaction, too, actually.

I know nothing about terrorist groups in general; least of all 70s European ones. It might be worth checking the movie out just the get some context for the song I adore -- the history lesson will be a bonus.

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John
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Re: Baader-Meinhof

Postby John » Tue Sep 01, 2009 1:50 pm

My fascination with them was deeply conflicted. As an idealistic teenage boy I was not above finding armed insurrection glamorous, nor was I immune to Marxist rhetoric at age thirteen, and the RAF were rock stars of a type. The European terrorist underground, from the IRA and ETA to Carlos the Jackal and the PLO, with their connections to Cuba, Angola, Egypt, the Stasi and KGB, appealed to the newly radicalized boy in me, only recently quit playing with GI Joe, in the first years of the Reagan administration. Almost anything seemed preferable to waiting around for nuclear annihilation.

When I wrote my initial post I hesitated over the word "about", changed it to "for", changed it back, and then changed it again and left it, so Liesbeth and Sour both picked up on my continuing ambivalence.

The fact that any good terrorist would consider putting love before ideology to be the height of bourgeois decadence is EXACTLY the heart of the song Cinnamon. There's the rub.

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Moni
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Re: Baader-Meinhof

Postby Moni » Thu Sep 03, 2009 3:57 am

John wrote: Almost anything seemed preferable to waiting around for nuclear annihilation.


That certainly makes sense. Although when you grow up at a time when Glasnost is almost already done with and the iron curtain is crumbling down, you could hardly see that RAF ay anything but a group of terrorists who kidnapped, terrorized and killed a whole lot of people over the course of almost a decade.

But I think the movie does a pretty good job in showing where the RAF came from; why they decided to actually do something as opposed to just watch and keep writing angry leaflets and articles, and you can see why they actually had quite a support among the german population. I wonder how a group like the RAF would be perceived today, if you consider terroist attacks like those of 9/11, in London or Madrid on the one hand and the whole recession business and things like "care-packages" for banks on the other hand.
I am sometimes surprised how little protest there is against - for example - tax money being used to help "banks in need" and their managers getting ludicrous amounts of compensations at the same time. It feels a bit like we're all just waiting for someone to punch those people in the face (metaphorically rather than literally), there's just no one who wants to be that person.


Back to the movie, a problem with could be that if you don't know anything about the subject, it might be difficult to follow at times, especially during the second half. There's an abundance of characters who just show up and who barely get intrpoduced in any way. Oh and Johanna Wokalek as Gudrun Ensslin is so overacting at times, spitting out every word with so much contempt as if she wanted to say "Yea I'm a real no-nonsense bad-ass bitch" with every single syllable. Thanks, we get it. Other than that, I thought it was pretty good.
This website has a concise timeline, quite a few bios and some further reading in english.

When I wrote my initial post I hesitated over the word "about", changed it to "for", changed it back, and then changed it again and left it, so Liesbeth and Sour both picked up on my continuing ambivalence.

Well that one was hard to miss :)

EDIT: (quoted from this post)
The man is captured by the Stasi (spelling?) and the woman gets away.

Before I forget, that can't be right, methinks. The Stasi was the secret police of the autoritarian communist regime in Eastern Germany, the RAF was active in West Germany. Should that not be the BKA (prominently featured in the movie) rather than Stasi?

*****
On a (barely) related note, I don't think I ever would have guessed that Clouds was about the World Trade Center.


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