'And Tomorrow the Entire World' ('Und morgen die ganze Welt'): Film Review | Venice 2020

Love, politics and communes.

A young German law student leaves her wealthy family to live in an Antifa commune and fight fascism in writer-director Julia von Heinz’s competition feature.

It’s not easy to grab hold of Julia von Heinz’s And Tomorrow the Entire World (Und morgen die ganze Welt), an attempt to describe what motivates a young political activist of the German nobility to embrace the warm chaos of a social commune, where she mulls over the use of violence in the class struggle with like-minded souls. But life is not all politics, and conflicting feelings arise when she finds herself attracted to the coolest guy in the house, Alfa (Austrian actor Noah Saavedra), who like her appears to be college-educated and bisexual.

Viewers of this Venice competition title are likely to find the ideological confusion contagious and the romance pretty trite. But the camerawork and music choices are lively and may enable a younger gen to relate and discuss.

An immediate point of interest is the story’s setting amid a group of Antifa activists, who have been frequently called out for their supposed violence by Donald Trump and speakers at the Republican convention. The film, however, remains ambiguous in its support of the group, or parts of the group, as the activists depicted have conflicting ideas about what they are doing. On the one hand, there are the peaceful banner-painters, who seem to be in the majority in the commune; on the other hand, there is charismatic leader Alfa, pushing the group to ever more violent actions: besting the cops, bloodying a gang of neo-Nazis and watching bombs explode in glorious slow motion.

In a time of social unrest over real distress — including police violence against Black people in the U.S. and around the world — these earnest young Germans can come across as 20-year-olds searching for a reason to rebel, particularly since their nemesis is ill-defined and the racist terror attacks the neo-Nazi group carries out are not dramatized on screen. More political background would have gone a long way toward establishing the stakes.

Among von Heinz’ many films for television is the 2017 TV drama Katharina Luther, the story of a 16th century nun who leaves the cloister to embrace the religious reform movement. Here, too, the story begins with a woman making a momentous decision, as Luisa (Mala Emde) decides to leave the peace and harmony of her parents (Dad is a baron) and the family’s country manse. A quick post-hunting scene pans past a slew of dead hares with a wink to Renoir’s The Rules of the Game. But we see too little of the parents to blame them for their daughter’s restless search for something more than the upper class can offer.

While continuing to attend classes on constitutional law with her best friend and presumable lover Batte, played by Luisa-Celine Gaffron, Luisa moves into Batte’s commune. As we read several times in the film, the constitution gives citizens the right to resist those who try to subvert the social and democratic order of the state, and Luisa seems intent on exploring its ramifications outside the classroom. The commune is dedicated to fighting fascism, but hardly united in the means to use. While Batte and a number of women are firebrand pacifists, Luisa finds herself spellbound in front of the impulsive Alfa. His attraction to violent struggle entails not only damaging property but inventing occasions to beat up members of an extreme right-wing group. The latter are very generic enemies, and the only close-up look we get of them is in a heavy-handed scene where they strum guitars and furiously wail their hatred of Blacks and Jews.

Making a trio is Alfa’s buddy Lenor (notable newcomer Tonio Schneider), who obviously has an unrequited crush on him and views Luisa’s appearance on the scene with understandable frustration. Like Batte, he’s a believer in non-violence, but lets himself be dragged into Alfa’s bravado adventures. Although the film has been nominated for the Venice’s Queer Lion, there is a lot of reticence in depicting gayness directly, notably in a scene in which Luisa, Alfa and Lenor share a bed, chastely — and this in spite of the fact that Alfa admits to sleeping with practically the whole commune. Saavedra, who played Egon Schiele in Dieter Berner’s 2016 biopic, brings a great deal of exotic rogue charm to the part, but the frantically roving camera prefers to stay close to Emde’s angelic face, amplifying her churning, undirected feelings and impulses.

There are echoes of the violent revolutionary groups operating in Germany in the 80s like the Red Army Faction — for instance, a thank you to Margarethe von Trotta, whose key 1981 film Marianne and Juliane told the story of two terrorist sisters from the RAF.  Von Heinz and her co-screenwriter John Quester suggest the current generation sees these older radicals as defanged and irrelevant; they are represented here by the retired revolutionary Dietmar (Andreas Lust), who hints he had something to do with the fatal car bombing of a Siemens executive in 1986. Having gone to prison and lost his chance at med school, he works quietly as a hospital orderly and even sews up Luisa’s gaping leg wound after a skirmish, leaving her, strangely, without so much as a limp in subsequent scenes.

Production companies: Seven Elephants, Kings & Queens Filmproduktion, Haiku Films
Cast: Mala Emde, Noah Saavedra, Tonio Schneider, Luisa-Celine Gaffron, Andreas Lust
Director: Julia von HeinzScreenwriters: John Quester, Julia von Heinz
Producers: Fabian Gasmia, Julia von Heinz, John Quester, Thomas Jaeger, Antoine Delahousse
Director of photography: Daniela Knapp
Production designer: Christian Kettler
Costume designer: Maxi Munzert
Editor: Georg Soring
Music: Matthias Petsche
Casting: Mai Seck
World sales: Film Boutiques
Venue: Venice Film Festival (Competition)
111 minutes