• Sisters in arms: epic narratives in United Red Army (2007) and The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008)

      Caoduro, Elena (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019-10-02)
      The aim of this chapter is to frame contemporary films about terrorism within inclusive interpretations of the war film genre and discuss the adoption of epic narratives in the depiction of 1970s revolutionary violence. Two recent films have explored the history of notorious left-wing terrorist groups as negative sagas: United Red Army/Jitsuroku Rengo Sekigun (Wakamatsu Koji, 2007) and The Bader-Meinhof Complex/Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex (Uli Edel, 2008). In light of Robert Eberwein’s flexible definition of the ‘war film’ (2010: 45), these biopics meet his criteria by depicting the conflict itself (preparation, aftermath and actual urban guerrilla), the activities off the battlefield (radicalisation, recruitment and propaganda) and the effects on society (impact on families and the state’s response to violence).  Through a comparative contextualisation of terrorism in West Germany and Japan, this chapter also analyses one of the most striking aspects of how left-wing political violence return in the cinema of the new millennium: the high visibility and mediated spectacle of female terrorists. Female participation in politically motivated violence has been consistent in global conflicts, but during the 1970s the number of female terrorists grew rapidly in radical left-wing organisations. In order to understand gendered representational strategies and the legacy of female involvement in the armed struggle, particular attention will be paid to the threatening and threated body of the female terrorists in The Bader-Meinhof Complex and United Red Army.  The representation of terrorists is not homogeneous but tends to follow stereotypical paradigms because female combatants are seen as the worst attack to society and the patriarchal system. In these films, in fact, political violence is blamed on sexually free and naïve youngsters, mentally unstable mothers and emotionally dependant women. It will be suggested that through narratives of female hysteria and supportive of gender imbalance, these films domesticate female violence and reject all forms of action that do not re-inscribe femininity within its normative societal role.