Bulky, tattooed goons beat up “foreigners” and show up at protests, snapping cell-phone photos, sneering, intimidating, just hoping to start a riot.
And the protesters have reason to wonder if the sometimes-passive cops aren’t on the thugs’ side.
Chanting “We are PEACEful, what are YOU?” doesn’t seem to help.
So some of them take to donning black hoodies and masks, “escalating” things in a fraught, divided country at a perilous moment.
“And Tomorrow the Entire World” is a footsoldiers’ eye view of a Big Picture movement, a thriller set against the clash of anti-fascists against fascists in a country more sensitive than most about just what rule-by-thuggery right wing authoritarianism leads to. This German story, when it works, is fraught with the tension young people there recognize as the stakes in this struggle.
In a part of the world that has safeguards against the “slow motion coup” of racist voter suppression of violent, dogmatic and cultish minority political movements, the right resorts to more direct violence to get its authoritarian way.
And as an opening title (voiced-over, as well) reminds viewers, their constitution underscores the right and duty to “resist those in society who seek to abolish the constitutional order.”
That is the group P81’s guiding principle. And that’s why Luisa, played by Mala Emde, has talked her law school pal Batte (Luisa-Céline Gaffron) into introducing her to them. They’re a small commune, united in their politics, their youth and their passion, showing up to confront fascist rallies and lend their support to other groups protesting the Reich-minded right, which never really went away after a World War was fought to exterminate it.
Luisa’s motives are unclear, but her sense of acceptable risk is in an instant. At a rally where skinheads start attacking protesters, she saves Batte from an assault by taking her assailant’s dropped phone.
He gives chase and assaults her, and only the intervention of Alfa (Noah Saavedra) saves her. She is attracted to the dashing king of “escalation,” and smart enough to insist that they dig into this phone and figure out what the other side is planning.
We can’t say that’s when Luisa’s radicalization begins, because plainly she’s already there. The early clues about her background transcend the “bored rich girl” (from the country) stereotype, and make her mystery all the more fascinating.
What is it about her baronial dad, their weekend hunting club events and her family’s politics and/or history that brought her here?
And will she be the cliche we suspect her to be, falling for the hunky anarchist who upsets the apple cart of “peaceful” P81 with vandalism, ambush assaults and the like?
Emde, who has played Anne Frank on German TV, makes a compelling tour guide into this world of planned protests and counter-protests, of disguises and escape routes to get past road blocks so that P81’s outliers can stymie the racists’ plans which Luisa’s stolen cell phone has given them access to.
You may find yourself, here and there, yelling at the damned TV, “Stupid stupid STUPID move” at some misjudgment in the making. But co-writer and director Julia von Heinz trips up expectations and delivers surprises, even if the film’s energy and forward momentum flag in the second act.
One thing the filmmaker has no control over is how Netflix cast the English-speakers to dub the German dialogue into English. The Nazis sound like folk-music singing hippies, or high school guidance counselors.
Thank heavens the film reverts to the original German for their actual anti-Semitic, foreigner “exterminating” sing-alongs. Even the Germans know theirs is a language that sounds angry, villainous and oppressive. So do the Proud Boys and assorted American Nazi groups, which adopt German phrases in addition to Nazi German iconography to inspire the faithful.
Other parts of the world might not have codified and institutionalized the right-left conflict to the degree that Europe in general and Germany in particular have (“right wing” and “left wing” are 19th century French inventions). But “And Tomorrow the Entire World” achieves a kind of universality in its messaging, its warnings about “escalation” and the historical consequences of shying away from that escalation.
People who have been brainwashed into “anti-fa is the REAL threat” won’t like it. But then again, they’ve never bothered to look up the what the “fa” part stands for.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, violence, drug abuse, sex
Cast: Mala Emde, Noah Saavedra, Tonio Schneider, Luisa-Céline Gaffron and Andreas Lust
Credits: Directed by Julia von Heinz, script by John Quester and Julia von Heinz. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:51