A field in Mannheim. A woman is walking, carrying a gun. She flings the gun as far away as she can. We hear Article 20 of the German constitution which says “the Federal Republic of Germany is a democratic and social state. Every German had the right to resist anyone who tries to remove this order, when other remedies are not possible.”
Cut to: an autonomous centre. The woman, Luise, is being introduced to the group by her friend Batte. They are both first year law students, and Luise’s studies are being financed by her well off parents. Batte explains that Luise has been involved with her in the refugee and antifa movements at school and she should be accepted into the clan.
Luise attends some Powerpoint presentations about identifying Nazis and helps make some placards. Later she practices some boxing with Alfa, who is pretty and a bit too fond of himself. He is after a bit of confrontation and a bit fed up with the peace and love vibe coming from part of the commune. Can you guess where this is going? Well, be patient, because it will take a while before we get there.
The following week-end they go to protest against a rally of Liste 14 – a fictitious organisation which just happens to use the same colour scheme as the AfD. Batte insists that they all be peaceful. Alfa has other ideas. He leads an attack of paint-filled eggs. At the end, the leading AfD – oops, sorry, Liste 14 – woman gets a cake in her face.
In the kerfuffle, Luise manages to steal the mobile phone of one of the Nazi stewards. The Nazis are so backwards that they’re still using old Nokia phones. The Nazi follows her and is ready to give her a good kicking before Alfa appears and applies a metal umbrella stand to the back of the Nazi’s head.
Luise tries and fails to enter the right password of the phone. Someone at the centre has the idea of trying 8888 (that’ll be 2 Heil Hitlers to you). The phone contains information which leads them to the next Nazi gathering, where they apply a little ultra-violence. They are also able to ring an old Nazi to convince him he’s about to be raided, which ultimately leaves them with a box full of explosives.
Director Julia von Heinz was once part of the Antifa scene, and the film does contain a great deal of authenticity (even if the hours long meetings which come to no conclusion have rightly been omitted because they’d be just too tedious for words). The group is united against the Nazis, but seriously split on ideological grounds, not least on the use of violence.
Batte argues constantly that using violence would make them as bad as the Nazis. Alfa has other ideas, which you feel is at least in part connected to his macho self-image. It would have been easy for the film to have left it at that – to have one “good” and one “bad” character, and the audience can choose which is which dependent on their political preferences.
Instead, Luise is allowed to swing between the 2 positions, just as her personal life swings between her old friend and the loud-mouthed new kid on the block. She sees that peaceful demonstrations along with small groups of Christians isn’t really causing the Nazis to change their minds, but she is also less invested in the fisticuffs than some of her male colleagues.
The film is also good at portraying the police, not as evil monsters, but as people who are there to uphold the rule of law, even if this means protecting Nazis and raiding autonomous centres. When the State clamps down on the commune, it is probably because of informal links between Nazis and the police (which have been the centre of some recent German court cases). All this is mentioned in passing, but not laid on with a trowel.
One place where I don’t think it quite gets there is in showing the invigorating aspect of political activism. Luise and Alfa appear to be rich kids slumming, letting off a bit of steam before they re-enter the mainstream. The commitment is not really palpable. Instead you get some stand-offs with skinheads but no real clarity about how the world is to be changed (there is a Point of View which would say, well, that’s autonomous politics for you. Far be it from me to comment).
But to say that a film could have been more exciting is no great criticism in itself. Und morgen die ganze Welt shows a culture which is seen far too little on screen. It should be relished for this, if not more. I’m not sure that it always has the “right” politics, but it coherently shows us a position with which we can engage.