The initial petty criminal transgressions of the car-stealing, joy-riding Baader initially drew supportive laughter from some of the younger viewers at my screening, doubtless in the belief that they were seeing something cool, but this faded away when it became clear how repulsive a character Baader actually was (although perhaps it was his sexist insults rather than his way with explosives which shocked them into silence). What might also strike them, if they think about it again, was the almost total absence from the film of any representative of the group's beloved proletariat. The only time we set eyes on the workers is when, as chauffeurs, policemen and bodyguards, they are on the wrong end of one of the gang's shotguns. This is a solidly middle-class affair.
Edel has said that for dramatic purposes he omitted some of the more arcane political discussions of the group. Certainly, those 18-year-olds I mentioned might be at a loss to understand what the group was actually doing this all for, other than out of a hatred for the generation that came before them, the "pigs", the people they protected and, of course, America.
But that doesn't actually seem so wide of the mark. A superannuated adolescent rebelliousness against authority, rather than a misty-eyed vision of a future paradise, is what motivated much of the far-left activity of the period. And as one watches the gradual disintegration of Baader, Meinhof and Ensslin in jail, the picture conjured up is not so much the disillusionment of a group of freedom fighters as the final days of the followers of that other cult leader of the counterculture, Charles Manson.