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Age of Uprising
Germany, France
Drama, History
IMDB rating:
Arnaud des Pallières
Sergi López as The Armless
Paul Bartel as Jérémie
Roxane Duran as The Princess
Amira Casar as The Abbess
Denis Lavant as The Theologist
Swann Arlaud as The Baron
Jacques Nolot as The Lawyer
David Bennent as César
Mads Mikkelsen as Michael Kohlhaas
David Kross as The Preacher
Bruno Ganz as The Governor
Storyline: In the 16th century in the Cévennes, a horse dealer by the name of Michael Kohlhaas leads a happy family life. When a lord treats him unjustly, he raises an army and puts the country to fire and sword in order to have his rights restored.
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Good, but... somebody else needs to tell the same story
Mads M delivers his usual wooden performance; Bruno Ganz shows up to add some acting pith.

But I think the director was smoking something.

The film is slow, and I mean s-l-o-w. I don't mind slow films - Wings Of Desire is one of my all time favourites, and it's very gentle and stately. But this just seems to dwell on things for no apparent reason.

Then it gets to the actual story, including the parts with action and ... jump... jump again... more jump cuts... jumpy jump jumpy jump. Leaving the audience going: Who were those guys? Where are they now? What point in the main character's life is this?

Its very confusing.

Then it gets to parts that may not matter... or perhaps they do? How do you tell?? ... and it goes s-l-o-w again.

Half way through I paused it and went and looked up the actual history - a 19th century novella describing a true story (as far as anyone can ascertain the truth) from the 16th century (about a Hans, rather than Michael Kolhasse, forgive my spelling).

Now that I've seen this film through, I'm disinclined to give it much of a mark. It just seems to have been a vehicle for the director to showcase their visual skills at the expense of the story (a case of the Jane Campions).

I think, with this particular story, a much better film could be made. There was one done in 1969, I'm going to take a look at it.
I had to search to find a summary for this movie and the word cryptic says it all.

Mainly the story has a aim of getting back two horses in good shape.

Certainly not something to start a war over!!!! A lawyer or such tells Kohlhaas that the court was corrupt after he made a legitimate complaint for redress of the horses and mutilation of his friend.

There was a aristocratic bias that changed owing to the death of an elder nobleman at the beginning.

The princess and baron were in cahoots and both were criminals.

Both should have been exiled or put in prison for what they did to Kohlhaas.

The initial incident at the bridge was hard to understand.

Why didn't Kohlhaas pay the permit fee outright instead of using the horses for collateral?? Were they so sophisticated that money was considered an affront?? The Priest at the end convinces Kohlhaas not to go forward with his revolt and that was a huge mistake.

His wife gets murdered for which there is no retribution or explanation.

His horses nearly are murdered as well.

His best friend is killed in battle after being mutilated by the barons vicious dogs.

The entire population was up in arms supporting Kohlhass.

This type of loyalty or support doesn't just happen.

They all had an ax to grind.

Its inexplicable why Kohlhaas desisted in his attempt to overthrow the ruling class there.

He certainly had plenty of reason to die in the attempt.

It doesn't add up that he should die at the behest of two criminals to play by someone else's crooked rules.

All the pieces do not fit.

However it is a well acted,photographed and intriguing movie.
Slow Burner
Some people might not feel comfortable with this film, which is not surprising. It does move with a very slow pace and it is a movie about values. The question is, do you want a movie that might feel like a lecture to you? It isn't of course, but I would understand if some viewers would feel like that.

Mads is playing as strong as ever and the character is complicated, but has a strong sense of righteousness. Something that has been the downfall for many people. And standing up for yourself or others is not that easy. It's easier to just back down and take it, than to stand up and fight. But is it worth it? There are quite a few questions that you might ask yourself after watching this movie, because it does not answer everything for you ...
A Great film, no pfaffing.
I loved this film. No padding of any description, and only the salient points throughout.

I have to say, I love films that just get on with it, without hours of Hollywood filler; people talking endlessly about things of no importance, that have nothing to do with the story, just to fill the time.

There is none of the usual people giving each other long languishing looks, or making love forever, just because the story is so thin.

This film is the complete opposite of that. It's a little 'slow' if you like constant action, as I do, however it's all to purpose and that makes it very satisfying.

Mads is brilliant as always, and so is the rest of the cast. I'm going to track down the book now, it really deserves a read. The author took big liberties with a real story, but all's fair in love and literature. Especially philosophical literature!

This director has brought it to the screen beautifully, although I will say it's not a film for those who are incapable of reading between the lines.
If you're a patient and proactive viewer, this film will reward you in ways few ever have or ever will
Michael Kohlhaas was without a doubt the most powerful film I've seen in 2013. It examines both the ethics and personal consequences of seeking retribution outside the law in an open way that leaves conclusions up to the viewer. By taking an aloof and dispassionate approach while showing all the key evidence, it invites the viewer to bring his/her own emotions and psychological makeup to bear as judge, jury, and executioner. The result is a complex inner discussion about the pros/cons of rebellion and other acts of disruption against established systemic order. All sides can be argued with substance and the position you take will reveal something that may surprise yourself. I don't know how he does it, but Mads Mikkelsen seems adept at finding soft-spoken powerhouse roles like this one, and The Hunt from last year. Although not suited for a mainstream audience, if you're a patient and proactive viewer, this film will test your code of ethics in a way few ever have or ever will.
German atmosphere in the French language
French films dealing with medieval events tend to be romantic, adventurous and beautiful, with colourful costumes, picturesque landscapes and magnificent dwellings. The story around Michael Kohlhaas is originally German, so is the book, that is why it is difficult to comprehend why the French became interested in this. The result is a joint French-German drama (well, I even recognised some German actors in small roles) where the French language is aggravating rather than supplementing - at least for me. The run is slow, the environment is ugly, there are a few twists, thus I started to focus on acting very soon. Of course, Mads Mikkelsen (a Dane!) is great as usual, and as far I understood, his French was very good (true, he is often employed in foreign films, I have seen him speaking Swedish, English, German as well throughout the film). Other performances seemed a bit arid to me - apparently due to the characters - and, all in all, the film in question caused ambivalent feelings; there was a lot of inner profundity, but the course of events seemed perfunctory. But fans of Mikkelsen will not be disappointed as there are a few scenes without his presence only.
Describing the legend without any fuzz
I must admit that I hadn't heard about the legend of Michael Kohlhaas before I saw this film, but then it's not my closest history either. However, that's one thing that's great about films. It can take us to other worlds and times, and tell us stories and make legends become even greater. So this film made me check out the story.

It's in many ways an understated film. A very realistic depiction, without the Hollywood nonsense. I enjoyed the story very much, and appreciate the realism that's put into it. It's a French/German film telling a German story, with Danish top actor Mads Mikkelsen in the lead. A job he as always does great.

We're back in the 1600's in Cevennes, where the horse dealer Michael Kohlhaas experiences how the rich aristocrats are doing what they want, even when it comes to stealing and killing humans. But when the young ruthless baron kills Michael's wife when so goes to negotiate after a horse theft, the gathers a gang and starts retaliating. The baron gets away, but with Kohlhaas and his gang in his heels. This is the start of a Robin Hood- like tale, with a growing number of followers as well as a growing reputation of fairness.

The film takes us back to the 1600's with no fuzz. Very much what we would think it all could have happened back then. I like the way it's shown and told. obviously not with a big budget, but solid. Chemically free of the extravaganza Hollywood would have put into it.

What annoys is a bothering background sound, an echoing noise which should have been removed. It's not enough to ruin the film experience, though.
Visually sumptuous, thought provoking.
What would you do if the legal system didn't support you or your rights? What would you do if you tried to take someone to court for compensation for something that was taken from you, and then, because of this, your family is dealt a terrible blow? Knowing you have no way to legally seek justice, would you take matters into your own hands? And once you have taken the law into your own hands, do you simply become as bad as the original aggressor? This is not something most of us have to worry about, if we live in country where rule of law is upheld. But in 16th century Europe (and in some parts of the world even now) not everyone could rely on the law.

This movie asks us to explore these questions and more. It doesn't provide us with the passive experience of sitting there and having the story, the moralities, the emotions, fed to us, as so often happens in films. It presents the material to us, and ask us to decide on who is right or wrong, who is at fault, and maybe to ask us what we might do in the same situation.

Visually, it is sumptuous, organic, exquisitely beautiful. Rugged mountain vistas, timber, earth, stone and leather. And let's not forget that it has Mads Mikkelsen as the lead character, speaking French and riding horses. This is a combination that is hard to beat, for sensory appeal. I don't speak French so I have no idea how his Danish accent is accounted for in the film, but his steely stares to the horizon and his drive for justice, and the consequences that follow, are powerful to watch.

This film is definitely on the art-house side of film-making, and probably wont appeal to those who want everything delivered to them, but asks us powerful questions about rights and wrongs, actions and their consequences, while delivering a beautiful visual experience.
I do agree with one of the reviewers that this movie is not meant for a general audience. It avoids all the blockbuster clichés in order to focus on the essential - the story. It seems in fact to follow the style of Kleist's original novel - dry, understated. I find this approach very modern, it makes you think and feel instead of giving you pre-chewed material. And feel you do. I think the use of contrast between the action that is shown and how this action is performed is exceptional. When Kohlhaas's household goes on its first revenge campaign to the baron's house the killings take place in an absolutely silent, matter-of-fact manner, as if they did this every day (similar to the hangman at the end, except he DID do this every day, so to speak). And so it is with most of the movie. I think this also reflects the atmosphere of the middle ages - life was rougher, death, especially violent death, was more present. Children watched animals being slaughtered (well, there is only a mare giving birth in the movie). Life (and death) was more direct, more present. And although there is a lot of violence, it is off-screen. It is hinted at. The worst you will see is blood on hands and on a sword, that's all. I think this was a very judicious choice, if you think that violence has become commonplace in movies, almost banal. Mads Mikkelsen does speak with an accent, but it is an exaggeration to say that one doesn't understand a word. French is by far not my first language, but I did understand the dialogues. And then the director covered himself for this - Kohlhaas speaks with Jeremie in German, which shows that he is not French (so does his name). When the Princess comes to his house, she didn't come to apologize to the little girl. Rather, she came to see with her own eyes who this daring man was (she did come accompanied by a small army, so it wasn't a courtesy visit), and perhaps also to warn him that he might not be over it yet. This is quite clear if you listen carefully to her monologue, where she explains that a person of power (i.e. her) cannot afford to be either too forgiving or too cruel, so as not to come across to her subjects as either mellow or tyrannical. And then she materializes this philosophy of hers at the end: she renders justice to Kohlhaas in all respects - gives him money for the wrongs suffered, imprisons the baron for the wrongs done, shows the horses in question healed, and punishes the rebel, i.e. Kohlhaas. He does cry at the end. I think this is a quite realistic performance, even from such an emotionless character as Kohlhaas, because, I think, no matter how tough you are, I don't see how one can remain calm knowing that one will be decapitated in the following minutes. And although the film does not show emotions in characters, it builds emotion in the viewer - just think of the long preparation before the beheading. This scene made my blood freeze. So, this is not an action movie, but it works your adrenaline up by letting you interpret the understatements. It is not a bildungsroman either, so don't expect much character development. It simply describes a situation. You would say it is almost a story from the New Yorker. A quick hint for the end - if you liked Kubrick's Barry Lindon, you will adore Micheal Kohlhaas. I think the two films display the same sort of sensibility.
Successful gloomy approach to the Kleist novel
After "Kohlhaas oder die Verhältnismäßigkeit der Mittel" this is already the second Michael Kohlhaas film I've seen this year at the big screen. It does not happen very frequently that I've read the book before seeing a new movie, but we read Michael Kohlhaas in school in German class many many years ago and I've always been quite fond of it since then. So I was eagerly awaiting this film, even more so after Mikkelsen's strong turn in "Jagten" recently. And just like in that film, he plays a tormented soul facing a great deal of injustice again and trying to get things straight in this one as well. His recent work has convinced me that he is among the best actors currently working. And just like Robert Gwisdek in the other Kohlhaas film, it's the Dane's strong performance that makes this movie. It would have been way worse without him probably and yet, also like the other film, it was an adaptation that did not totally satisfied me.

The book makes for a great read and I'm not really sure why it's so difficult to turn it into an equally good movie. There's as much attention to detail in character development as there's many showy scenes that could work wonders transitioned to motion pictures, so it should normally be a good basis. It's difficult to exactly put the finger on what was missing here that avoided it from being a really great film. Ganz is good as always and he has the final scene with Mikkelsen which is one of the highlights of the film. Even David Kross, who I'm not always a fan of, plays his part convincingly here. I usually feel hat the villain or main antagonist is a crucial figure for a film's success or lack thereof and I was not too big on Arlaud's performance as the baron here or the way he was written. He just didn't exude the kind of quiet threat I hoped he would. Nonetheless, thanks to Mikkelsen mainly, I never felt the movie dragged and transferring the whole story to French soil turned out to be a good idea. It's one of the best bleak movies I've seen all year and I'd recommend it.
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