After the holy texts, no other book has shaped the last century more than Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. In three volumes, the critical thinker totally dissected the class system that capitalism was built on and reached out to people all over the world to disrupt this exploitation.
Le Jeune Karl Marx attempts to recount the thinker’s formative years as a young rebel-rouser, following his trajectory from Cologne to Paris where he meets his partner in thought, Frederich Engels. Together they form a partnership that will bring communist ideas to the foreground of pre-modern thinking.
Marx and Engels struggled for years to boil their writing down so that it could be understood by all audiences. They held bourgeois philosophers in contempt. Director Raoul Peck may be guilty of trying to boil down too much and struggles to articulate the ideas and thought process of the two writers. Instead, we have their story simplified and sexed-up with chase sequences, drunken epiphanies and pointless scenes of copulation.
August Diehl plays the young genius as a cock-sure, handsome rebel with a cause who’s ready to pick a fight with anyone who’ll listen. Vicky Krieps is a revelation as his wife, Jenny; modern and astute in her own right, she offers charming relief but also instigates action when the pacing slows down. The dialogue struggles at times and resorts to banal exposition but there are moments of brilliance when Marx is sparring, engaged in debate with other great thinkers.
The story excels when Marx and Engels’s (Stefan Konarske) progress in socialist thinking is connected to the proletariat struggle; for instance, when Engels visits the slums of Irish factory workers to gather a firsthand account of labour. Sadly, Peck spreads himself too thin and tries to squeeze in too much of Marx’s story and writing while at the same time trying to make it all sexy.
Le Jeune Karl Marx is a sentimental rendering of a philosophical and social revolution. Unfortunately the film is too playful with history and tries to spoon-feed its audience.
Le Jeune Karl Marx (The Young Karl Marx) does not have a UK release date yet.
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