By Jessica Kiang
Engaging with director Raoul Peck's handsome, well-acted, sincerely intentioned The Young Karl Marx is, with the benefit of historical hindsight, rather a bittersweet endeavour. It's not hard to do: Peck's intelligent, textured film-making makes potentially arcane political discussions sing with urgency, and mostly airs out the parchment reek of academic fustiness.
But though the ideas are rendered accessible, and sometimes practically thrilling, placed in their context (dutifully overliteralised with frequent intertitles that tell us exactly which town we're in, in which month of which year) anyone with a reasonable working knowledge of subsequent history may find their ability to celebrate the emotional crescendoes of this story a little compromised. You do not have to blame Marx personally for the atrocities of 20th-Century communism to find it difficult to uncomplicatedly cheerlead the birth of the ideology's most influential early text.
The Communist Manifesto, written in 1848 by Marx (August Diehl) and Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske), was a pamphlet that laid out the core ideas Marx would spend the rest of his life expanding upon, in his never-completed masterwork, Das Kapital. The latter title, however, lies outside the remit of Peck's biopic, which culminates in the printing of the 'Manifesto' as a kind of triumphant opening salvo in the revolution to come.
Read the rest here.
RW note: When the film comes to the U.S. or appears online, I plan to review it. For the time being, the review above will have to do, which for the most part is descriptive and refrains from being fawning of Marx or mixed with thick Marxist propaganda.