I have long made grumblings of writing an article here, I just moved to a new house and started a new job so I decided to get to it while I still had some free time. The idea to do a review of this came when I was checking for nearby theaters on my movie pass app and the nearest theater happened to be an art house theater a couple of miles from my house. Living away from relatives we didn’t have any plans for Easter so my wife and I decided to check it out and leave our neighborhood of swap meets and men wearing bow ties selling bean pies in front of burger king to go see a movie in the local historic district where the locals continue the colonial tradition of brunch. The theater was a single screen theater with an old-style marquee with Karl Marx in big letters. The box office was staffed by a hipster male with a hairstyle typically reserved for male figure skaters and Final Fantasy characters. In order to buy popcorn and a soda I had to interrupt a conversation about Armie Hammer between a chubby woman wearing horn rimmed glasses and a skinny woman wearing horn rimmed glasses. The chubby woman took our order and despite appearing to work there I am still unsure what job the skinny woman could possibly have been doing. There were only about 6 other people at the movie mostly what appeared to be upper middle-class couples over 50.
The film started with a scene like the human hunting scene in Planet of the Apes. People dressed in rags and covered in mud search the ground for sticks and the they hear a noise; the French police arrive on horseback and begin rounding them up and beating them with sticks. The next scene is the introduction of Engels and his wife. His wife is leading an argument between the workers and her boss Engels father. She and her sister end up quitting and Engles then tracks them down looking for an interview with the proletariat of Manchester. He finds them in an Irish bar, he approaches them about getting an interview and he is punched. He takes one punch and he drops like a chloroformed child, when he wakes up he is being nursed by a beautiful red headed Irish woman who later becomes his wife. Marx introduction sets the pattern for much of his actions through out the film. He is at a meeting of a socialist organization where he sits around tables, eats, drinks, smokes, complains about not having money and insulting his allies berating them for not being radical enough. He is writing for a publication in Germany and they are all about to be arrested and they are having an argument of what to do next while the police are breaking down the doors, he ends up writing for a man named Arnold Ruge. The film then skips to Marx in his kitchen eating and talking with his wife about their future and her past. Marx’s wife is as ridiculously French as Engels wife is Irish and both are played by actresses’ way out of the actors league. His wife had given up a life of luxury as an heiress in order to be with Marx but she is in love and is a true believer. This scene also features the first of several mentions of Marx being one of (((them))). His wife is threatening to go back to visit her family and ask for money because they have a newborn daughter, she pressures him to instead hit up Ruge for money and to pressure Ruge to sell some of his railroad stock. The film then shows Marx and his wife attending a rally for a politician named Proudhon. Proudhon is giving a speech where he declares that property is theft. Marx decides to speak to him after this and in this meeting, he impresses Proudhon and begins his rivalry with several of Proudhon’s acolytes. The film also begins another reoccurring thing where legitimate criticisms of Marx and socialism/communism in general are brought up and breezed past never to be addressed again. Marx questions how if property is theft, how can there be theft without property, the film purposes that the flaw with Proudhon’s statement is it is all philosophical with no real world application and that there must be a way to implement this idea for it to be worth anything. The rest of the film is about Marx’s journey towards fulfilling that goal but in the moment they all just kind of laugh it off get complimented on their French and move on to the next scene.
In this scene, Marx is now visiting Ruge asking for money and makes reference to his railroad stock but he is unsuccessful, the meeting however is still fruitful it is there that he meets Engels.
The meeting with Engles starts of hostile, he claims not to know him but soon he begins to insult him for being rich and out of touch based on his writings and their previous meeting, things are not going well but then Ruge is called away and they are left alone in the room and the fellating of each other’s egos then begins. Moments after Ruge leaves the room right after Marx has given him a through dressing down Engles calls Marx a genius, Marx returns the compliment and says that his report on the workers of Manchester which he had just insulted was a colossal work addressing something no one else has touched. The film then cuts to them out side having left Ruge without a word. They are now smoking cigars, grinning ear to ear and walking with an extra spring in their step. The homo erotic tension is so palpable you could cut it with a hammer and sickle. They decide to author a book together but then their plans are interrupted by the French police asking people for their papers, which seem to have fallen out of Engles coat at some point. They make a run for it and the only chase scene of the film commences. There are several staples of the chase sequence, chickens, construction sites and people yelling at them as they walk through their homes. They escape and meet up at a bar where they drink and talk about the loves of their life Marx talks about how great his wife is and Engels who has yet to marry the Irish girl because he is still afraid of his father says, “it’s complicated”. He and Marx then make a toast and kiss. I swear I watched this movie, I’m not making this up. The next several scenes are about Engels meeting and befriending Marx’s wife, and the beginning of the writing collaboration between Marx and Engels. They start by writing a defense of Proudhon against a journal called the Critical Critique, their reply is initially called Critique of Critical Critique something the film things is so clever it is played for laughs several times. Not long after it’s publication the good times then come to an end and Marx and his wife are told they have 24 hours to leave France.
The film enters the low point of Marx’s life so far, he is in Brussels in exile from France where he was in exile from Germany. He has a second child on the way and he is now at the post office facing his dark night of the soul, his Jesus in the desert moment. He is at this post office in search of a job. He is quickly rejected from the position he applied for after promising to not engage in politics and providing an unsatisfactory handwriting sample. He then lowers himself even further and considers a non-white collar job offering to do anything. The film then cuts back to Marx’s house where his wife and her servant are being hassled by bill collectors only for Marx to walk in with a big grin on his face and an arm full of groceries and proceeds to pay the bill collectors from a full coin purse. He then tells him Engles had wired them some money and pulls out a lobster for dinner over which Marx, his wife and his servant discuss an offer that Engles has set up in England. Marx is hesitant to leave behind his currently unattended children but his true believer wife talks him into it and so he heads of alone to join the League of the Just.
When he gets to England it turns out that their membership in the league of the just is not a done deal and Marx secures it by claiming that he was close personal friends with Proudhon and he can connect their organizations which is a large over statement. He is at best a friend but more accurately an acquaintance of his at this point. They then travel to meet with Proudhon who isn’t interested in being the contact, he tells them that he is far too busy and lazy to take on the additional work but is interested in working something out. Proudhon then gives them a copy of his new book The Philosophy of Poverty a training montage the commences where they are furiously reading his book, writing notes in the margins and writing a response. Their response The Poverty of Philosophy again follows Marx’s favorite themes of not radical enough and we need a game plan not more musings, again turning on a former ally. Shortly after this at a meeting with some members of the Justice League Marx does a through critique and take down of Kietling who at this point has only been nice to them and is a charismatic and outgoing, workhorse and useful idiot. They are later called to an official meeting with the league and considering everything they have done are expecting to be expelled but instead they are given carte blanche to plan the new direction of the organization. Marx has apparently nurtured Kietling who they mention several times throughout the rest of the film has given up. They finally go to a big meeting for the Justice League and they take it over. Engels forces a vote naming him as the speaking delegate and then proceeds to make a speech calling for violent overthrow of the current system, he then proceeds to rename the organization the communist party and replace its banner, a white banner with a shinning sun and shaking hands with the slogan “all men are brothers”, with a deep red banner with the slogan “workers of the world unite”. After this coup they must be tired because they are next seen at a trip to the beach where Marx is complaining about being tired of all the hard work and never getting to write what he wants to write so they argue and decide to write what he has always wanted to write a plan for a new system the Communist Manifesto. While Engels and Marx discuss this their wives have a weird conversation about families Marx had 2 kids and Engels’ wife refuses to have kids with him unless he gives up his money but is chill with her 16-year-old younger sister giving him some kids. They then proceed to write the manifesto in another writing montage and the film ends with the four of them putting the finishing touches on the first draft while Marx’s servant brings them drinks. And the credits play out to a Bob Dylan song. I think it was The Times are a Changin’.
So far I haven’t talked much about Engels solo scenes. The reason is I can not place them on a timeline they are all the same. Engels has major daddy issues and his two central struggles in the film are seeking his factory owning papa’s approval while still hanging out with his cool commie friends. The other issue is he struggles with the fact that he is wealthy and a successful part of his father’s company. Engels in the film somehow makes an overweight man who between mouthfuls of food and drink, and puffs on a cigar talks about communism and complains about being unable to feed his family by not having a job the more likable character. Engels is also played by easily the worst actor of the film, for the most part the actors range between serviceable and good but Engels whenever tasks with anything in the nonverbal realm breaks out into faces that express a wide variety of ailments. The production value is surprisingly good, the film is well lit and the locations and costumes all are convincing. Where the film really falls apart in the editing and the script. The dialogue to their credit is cringe worthy not because it is unbelievable or unnatural but because it sounds like the things awful pretentious people would say. The overall structure and tone of the film is that of a Wikipedia article, its choppy and is the opposite of the old adage “show don’t tell”. My wife and I discussed politics afterwards and it didn’t go well, so unless you are politically aligned and looking for a hatewatch I would not recommend this for a date night.