Filmed in French, German and English, Raoul Peck’s Le jeune Karl Marx is an erudite rendition of Marx’s journey to Das Kapital.
Slow Revolutionsby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
After two long hours expounding on the events and ideas that caused Karl Marx to write his world changing Das Kapital, suddenly as the final info-titles roll accompanied by an archive montage of world events somehow linked to Marx’s weighty tome, the point of Raoul Peck’s Le jeune Karl Marx comes sharply into focus. And it’s a clarion call from offstage left to take up Marx’s manifesto once more and rise up against the capital. It’s perhaps a strange call to arms in this post-communist world. And Engels’ vehement declaration at the founding of the Communist League feels equally out of time. But it is at least a moment of passion in Peck’s otherwise deadpan film.
With disappointing steadfastness, Le jeune Karl Marx follows Marx (August Diehl) and his wife Jenny (Vicky Krieps) from Trier with his early writings on property and theft to his meetings with Proudhon and Engels (Stefan Konarske) in Paris to his banishment in Brussels and his eventual joining of the League of the Just in London. We witness the events, thinkers, works and debates that shape Marx’s thinking – from Engels’ work at his father’s factory in Manchester to his written critiques of other European thinkers. But nevertheless, Peck fails to infuse his period piece with much emotion or drama, settling instead for a rundown of key events. Slow and steady, Raoul Peck’s Der junge Karl Marx lacks the vigour of youth, seemingly grown old before its time.
Le jeune Karl Marx is now showing at the 67th Berlin Film Festival