The Young Karl Marx
Le Jeune Karl Marx
Panorama | Youth | Contemporary World Cinema
Fresh off the success of his James Baldwin documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, Haitian-born director Raoul Peck tackles the early days of the friendship between Karl Marx (August Diehl) and Friedrich Engels (Stefan Konarske) as they struggle to establish the Communist Party and complete the Communist Manifesto. In his mid-20s, Marx was already a veteran of the class wars when he met—and initially disliked—the dapper, 22-year-old Engels, son of a rich textile manufacturer. From the smoky cafés of Paris, where nightly strategy sessions form the basis of what was to become the manifesto, to the socialist enclaves of London, where Marx, with Engels in tow, chose to live after the French authorities expelled him, Peck and his legendary screenwriter Pascal Bonitzer (Chantal Ackerman’s Golden Eighties, André Téchiné’s Scene of the Crime, Jacques Rivette’s La Belle noiseuse ) revel in the world of ideas and hopes for the future embodied in these two world-historical figures.
[A] sinewy and intensely focused, uncompromisingly cerebral period drama… This is a film which sticks to a credo that people arguing about theories and concepts—while also periodically angrily rejecting the notion of mere abstraction—is highly interesting. And Peck and Bonitzer pull off the considerable trick of making it interesting, aided by very good performances from Diehl and Konarske… [This] fervent film… shouldn’t work, but it does, due to the intelligence of the acting and the stamina and concentration of the writing and directing."—Peter Bradshaw, Guardian