The young Karl Marx: or how the young damned of the earth rose.

How are revolutions born? History will have answered: the great upheavals have most often been the result of common actions of young men (sometimes leaving a very small place for their companions), steeped in ideals and the desire to change a world they considered unfair and inappropriate. But the cinema was also of course interested in it!

Young Karl Marx by Raoul Peck Photo: K-Films America

The young men and women behind the big ideas

Behind the revolutionary ferment, behind the dreams, the desires, the realizations, how many sacrifices, compromises, reassessments, new enemies will there have been?

This is, roughly, what The Young Karl Marx. Because beyond the normal and fascinating process that gives life and humanity to these names that history textbooks made us remember (yes, Engels, Marx, Bakunin, Proudhon and the others loved, shouted, were as arrogant and impetuous as brilliant and charismatic), what this film shows us is precisely that: how one dominant ideology is almost naturally destined to be replaced by another, as soon as a new generation manages to make itself heard.

In the street, a man and a woman, in turn-of-the-century period clothing, are talking.
Young Karl Marx by Raoul Peck Photo: K-Films America

Arise, the damned of the earth

It all started at the end of the 19th century. The industrial revolution, born in England, is a godsend… for the people who own the means of production. For others, it’s the opposite: unemployment, famine, health and safety at risk.

The workers become this class apart, the proletariat, which the bravest do not hesitate to qualify as modern slavery. And it is on this ground that a young 26-year-old thinker (excellent August Diehl), helped by his young wife (no less excellent Vicky Krieps), will gradually transform his intuitions of a better world into real thought.

With the help of Pascal Bonitzer on the screenplay and Robert Guédiguian (Marius and Jeanette) to the production, Raoul Peck (also director of the powerful documentary I Am Not Your Negro) returns precisely to this pre-revolution boiling. Before, therefore, the workers united for good, in 1848, under the aegis of this new manifesto still full of promises and dreams: that of the Communist Party. History will prove that behind ideals tyranny also has its place, but that will be for another film.

On a beach, two men wearing top hats face each other.
Young Karl Marx by Raoul Peck Photo: Kris Dewitte

The irresistible engine of youth

In this film, it is rather in the present – ​​and a particularly lively present – ​​that the hopes and the fight against the injustices that will shape a new world are combined. A present in which we seek, we grope, we try by all means to reconcile abstract concepts of sociology, economics and political science with the concrete observation of the realities of the working class which, for its part, does not has little to do with knowing that its condition is predetermined by the invisible law of the market.

How to change the world, then? At the heart of Young Karl Marx, an answer nestles. It is counting on the impetuosity of youth, the film seems to tell us.

Because, between 1844 and 1848, Karl Marx and the others were not yet those sacred monsters of economico-political theory. They research, discuss, try to reconcile intellectual dreams and budding family life. Raoul Peck’s choice to think about this revolution from this angle is not only brilliant and stimulating: it is profoundly human. And that’s probably what makes his film so moving.

The Young Karl Marx on ICI Télé, on the 18th, at 2:42 a.m.

The trailer (source: YouTube)

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