9 November 2004 | bob the moo
'The Baader Meinhoff Gang' - Energetic and funny but with a well-written script that looks at ME and alienation
Johnny suffers from ME and is prone to sudden tiredness and depression even when he looks in good health he can only be a few minutes away from being totally out of it. During a hospital visit he meets Martin, who is in a wheelchair and is angry and aggressive towards everyone else in the world.
A minor scuffle between the two takes Johnny back to Martin's flat where he discovers that his new friend is angry at the world to the point where he is preparing a terrorist strike in his local bank to protest against society's views of those with illnesses.
I have seen several films that have tried to deal with the issue of those suffering from ME or the alienation that those with disabilities feel but I don't think I have seen one that does it with so much energy, humour and foul language as this one. The basic plot doesn't really matter because the whole terrorism thing is just an extreme (and topical) outpouring of the anger that Martin feels. Why Johnny gets as involved as he does is not totally clear but the focus with his character seems to be more about his illness more than just alienation. On a very basic level the film is funny and energetic and it is very enjoyable to watch but I felt that its value was more in the understanding of ME.
We meet Martin when he attacks Johnny for having a 'nonce's' disease that only middle classes suffer from 'oh look at me, I'm tired all the time' he mocks and in a way the script hits it right on the head because that is what many people think ME, chronic fatigue? Just moping around more like! Even with my own ex-wife suffering from the condition at one point I still find myself feeling the same way, so to have the well written Johnny reminding me of the realities of sudden tiredness and borderline depressions was interesting and engaging. Of course the film keeps this behind the energy and comedy but it does come through and is a very important part of the film.
With the material to work with, Bremner is very good and seems to have a good understanding of what it is to have ME and is totally convincing all the way through the film. Marsan is just as good but for different reasons as he carries more of the comedy and energy of the piece. His character is simpler too, more of an obvious 'angry at world over condition' thing, but it works well still. Director Haynes makes the digital camera work interesting and doesn't overdo the jerky camera thing; it moves around a lot as you would expect but this adds to the energy of the film and doesn't feel too obtrusive the use of locations is also impressive and important, making the film feel more expensive than it probably actually was.
Overall this is an enjoyable film that is well worth seeing. On one level it is energetic, funny and very entertaining but on another level it is a well written look at ME that will help you appreciate the condition for what it is even if it won't give you a great understanding of it medically or in the longer term.