The Third Generation 1979


Crime / Drama

IMDb Rating 6.9


A mogul merrily funds terrorists to boost his computer sales, by panicking West German government and industry c. 1980, as the third generation of Western European left-wing activists forms, after crippling of the violent Red Army Faction. Released in 1979, largely unavailable until 2004. International kapitalist PJ Lurz's secretary is a gang member, while her Polizeikommissar father-in-law/lover hired Lurz' corporate security force.

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Udo Kier as Edgar Gast
Hanna Schygulla as Susanne Gast
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by jaibo 9 / 10

the sins of the fathers...

The Third Generation is anything but an accessible film. It's story is relatively simple - a group of rather middle-class young radicals set off bombs, hold up banks and kidnap an industrialist, whilst a police net closes in around them. There is a traitor in their midst, and little do these bumbling terrorists know that the person holding the purse strings for their organisation is the rich industrialist himself, who has begun the film by pontificating how the lack of terrorist activities in Germany makes it difficult for he and his political friends to move Authoritarian measures into place. A topical film then. What is striking about it is Fassbinder's extraordinary approach to both narrative - made up of stark, elliptical scenes veering between polemic, realism and surrealism - and mis-en-scene. Most of the sets are domestic interiors, and these are filmed from such odd angles, and lit with a strange plasticity, so that the environments become as much characters in the film as the human figures. One scene, a long and fairly talky piece in which the cell go over their plans and review their situation, is filmed with such choreographic virtuosity that it takes the breath away - a single long pan around the room catches snatches of dialogue and interaction, as the characters themselves crisscross the screen, rising or sitting as the camera moves onto them, each piece of the conversation picking up as its speakers encounter the screen. It must have taken a great deal of minute rehearsal and a perfectly mathematical mind to carry off this exceptional sequence, which is truly bravura.

The film looks and sounds like no other. Besides the weird visual quality of the interiors, the soundtrack has a constant backing of TV speak, mood music, a strange din which is always competing for the viewer's attention against what is being said by the characters on the screen. This has a two-fold purpose: it both emphasises the way in which these people encounter a world mediated by broadcasters; and also does the Brechtian trick of emphasising the phoniness of the cloak-and-dagger noir/spy thriller situations the film places its characters in. These are emphatically people caught in someone else's plot, or in their own, it's hard to tell.

The Third Generation is scabrous about the bourgeois values of the industrialist and his associates (these values are condemned as the same values the Nazis cherished - hard work, obedience to authority, family life) and about the terrorists, who are bunglers, dreamers, chaotic buffoons whose "war" against the bourgeoisie is merely a carnival arranged by the elite class to promote itself. The terrorists, for all their bravado and antics, are pretty good for nothing, and trapped in a paradigm of male domination of the female, as if being a male chauvinist pig were a radical, anti-bourgeois move. Fassbinder's view of then contemporary Germany was bleak - it was a country being punished for the sins of the fathers "even unto the third generation". I doubt whether, if Fassbinder were alive and turning his vision on our present situation, he would consider that those sins had been expiated yet.

Reviewed by artihcus022 9 / 10

The World as Will and Idea...

Along with In A Year of 13 Moons, this is the only other Fassbinder film on which the director/writer/producer also served as director of photography. Like that film it features bold striking compositions and rich colours that are perfectly saturated and stylized to the right amount. The Third Generation was made in 1979 two years after the German Autumn, the crackdown of the Baader-Meinhof gang. Despite it's topicality however Fassbinder's film is about the future about the world of tomorrow as exemplified by it's evocation of science-fiction masterpieces like Solaris mentioned and cited in this film, the casting of the star of Alphaville, Eddie Constantine as the head of a computer business organization and the constant presence of technology in this film, either off-screen(speakers and recording equipment) or on-screen(TV screens and later guns and bombs). The score by Peer Raben is appropriately electronic.

The story of The Third Generation is hard to summarize or describe and most people won't understand one bit of this film when they see it for the first time. See it twice and thrice and then it adds up. The story is just as fragmented as the personalities and lives of it's characters. The terrorist cell at the center of the film is a group of mostly middle-class misfits and apathetic junkies who are a mass of unresolved tensions and contradictions. Bulle Ogier's a stern history teacher(crucially introduced to us discussing the 1848 revolution in Prussia) but she's also a would-be feminist who submits to becoming a sex toy of Paul the "leader" of the group. Hanna Schygulla is your average bubbly corporate secretary but she's also carrying out a sado-masochistic affair with her father-in-law. Most of these "terrorists" activities for the first half are relegated to living in an apartment of a drug addicted young girl, later joined by her former boyfriend and his friend. Their activities here are confined to juvenile games and irritating each other out of their skulls later extended to breaking-and-entering and bank robbery. The sole murder committed by them is revenge acted out by a submissive over the dominant.

The actions of the police, the business interests, the government bureaucracy however is that of self-justification, of ruthless exercise of power and repression whose machinery ultimately incorporates these terrorists willingly and unwillingly.

The relation of this film to our current-day hell-hole needs little elaboration. This is a film for the 21st Century, the children of the third generation, one just as compromised and confused as it's forebears.

Reviewed by hasosch 10 / 10

Are our actions self-legitimating?

According to what R.W. Fassbinder said in an interview, the first generation of "terrorist" acted out of idealism, paired with a great sensibility and an almost insane despair about their own powerlessness regarding the state as a system and its representatives. The second generation were those who acted out of their understanding and compassion for what the first generation fought; thus, several of them were lawyers who used to defend the "terrorist" of the first generation.

However, around the middle of the 70ies, in Germany, a "third generation" arose, but her motives were neither idealistic nor solidaric, but allegedly legitimated by their actions. Therefore, this hard to understand movie circles around the metaphysical question if actions can be self-legitimating or not, and their political consequences. The montage of Fassbinder's film suggests an almost total loss of coherence, the scenes are connected rather hazardly by abrupt cuts. Moreover, Fassbinder uses one of his favorite media of style: the sound-collage. In "The Third Generation", he combines three and more sound levels and in addition TV-broadcasting, video-registrations and more, so that the omnipresent media have started a life of their own: we understand nothing anymore. Obviously, according to the film director, only when this stage of despair is reached, our actions are self-legitimating, but mostly because all sense is gone.

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