Writer-director Julia von Heinz’s German political thriller presents an authentic account of contemporary antifa groups, by suitably portraying the non-violent aspects of their resistance
In 2017, historian Mark Bray set out to do something never tried before: he tried to ‘define’ antifa, a movement deeply rooted in the early 1900s as an opposition to the rise of dictatorial leaders like Mussolini and Hitler. In his book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, Bray wrote, “The job of the anti-fascist is to make [fascists] too afraid to act publicly and to act as volunteer targets for their hate and attacks, which might keep them from thinking about burning down the mosque in their neighborhood.”
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Picking up from the where discourse ends and lived experiences begin, director Julia von Heinz embarks on a different journey. In a world haunted by the omnipresence of far-right, fascist political and social organisations, And Tomorrow the Entire World invites revolutionaries to navigate the eternal conflicts of a young activist. The film is her inquiry into a deceptively simple question: what does it mean to be an anti-fascist?
Set in the small West German town of Mannheim, the film follows protagonist Luisa (Mala Emde), a freshman law student, as she leaves her bourgeoisie household to join her best friend Batte (Luisa-Céline Gaffron) in an antifa commune. After befriending charismatic Alfa (Noah Saavedra) and timid Lenor (Tonio Schneider) among others, she becomes increasingly involved in on-ground anti-fascist action.
Originally intended as a period film set in the 90’s, Von Heinz creates an authentic account of contemporary antifa groups by attempting to represent a sizable spectrum of antifascist operations.The film does justice to its subject in portraying the non-violent aspects of resistance. While most characters in the film reiterate their pledge of ‘using violence for self-defence only’, Luisa and Alfa, in particular, become the only antithesis of this principle, which makes for an interesting viewing as their isolation grows.
And Tomorrow the Entire World
- Director: Julia von Heinz
- Cast: Mala Emde, Noah Saavedra, Tonio Schneider, Andreas Lust, Luisa-Céline Gaffron
- Duration: 111 minutes
- Storyline: An anti-fascist law student infiltrates a regional neo-Nazi group to find out more about a planned attack that threatens her friends
Mala Emde’s performance as Luisa is arguably one of the strongest pillars that the film constantly relies on. There are but a handful of shots in the film where Luisa is not present — “a conscious choice,” according to the director. It does pay off in the end. We look at the world through the eyes of a privileged individual, trying to strip out of her upbringing and become one with the cause. It speaks back to the larger movie-streaming audience that belong to a certain class. The camera work by cinematographer Daniela Knapp, which utilises closeups and medium shots, also goes a long way towards establishing empathy with the characters. The wide shots, only used on two occasions, is done so to reinforce the opposition of ideology between Luisa and the neo-Nazi ‘villians’ of the film.
However, for a film which sets sail to explore the complexities of being a part of a social movement, it still plays into the tropes of the optimistic, young protagonist, the charming but flawed lover, the level-headed friend and the guiding, older revolutionary.
One of the main themes of the film is that of privileged individuals in social movements. The story quietly dwells on the idea of ‘Salonkommunists’ (champagne socialists) having an economic-backing that encourages them to take risks. We find that the characters are not averse to quitting the movement; for them, there is always an alternative. The script also leans heavily on the audience to understand the character’s motivations which are not always clear. Their actions, therefore, sometimes feel to be motivated by an empty, spur-of-the-moment naivete. Perhaps this is Von Heinz’s intention all along, as Lusia’s father recollects the old saying, “Those under 30 and not on the left have no heart; those over 30 and still on the left have no brain.”
The film also explores relationships among women of resistance and the sense of solidarity within the commune. Acceptance and forgiveness are strengths deeply entrenched in the characters as they spearhead the antifa operations.
Von Heinz layers the film with songs by Marie Curry-led hip-hop group NeonSchwarZ, known for their antifascist pieces. The film’s feature soundtrack —Wenn die Nacht am tiefsten ist, ist der Tag am nächsten — is a rendition of a 1975 song of the same name by the famous Punk rock band Ton Steine Scherben. The band was known for being a musical mouthpiece of new left movements, such as the squatting movement, during that time in Germany and their hometown of West Berlin, in particular. Matthias Petsche’s background score and Bettina Bertok’s sound design — juxtaposing opera music with scenes of violent clashes — also prove to be a bone-chilling combination.
The film’s achievement of becoming Germany’s official submission to the Best International Feature Film category at the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021, underscores the importance of political dramas in highlighting the concerns of the times. And Tomorrow the Entire World locates antifascist action within the unifying constitutional value, “All Germans shall have the right to resist any person seeking to abolish this constitutional order, if no other remedy is available.”
The film is worth its runtime for those who see it as a beginning; a piece that questions its own values, as we all must.
And Tomorrow the Entire World is currently streaming on Netflix