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Were Marx And Engels The Original Odd Couple?

We all know Karl Marx as the bushy beard, as “Das Kapital,” as the “ism,” as “The Communist Manifesto…” But, thanks to a new film, we’ll soon get to know Karl Marx the man, or, at least, a hilariously romantic version of him. “The Young Karl Marx” is the newest film by Raoul Peck, who recently directed “I Am Not Your Negro” about James Baldwin (another influential and radical thinker).

The film, which stars August Diehl as Marx (you may remember Diehl as the S.S. officer with an ear for accents in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”) and Stefan Konarske as Friedrich Engels. It’s a classic odd couple scenario – the young, destitute, fire-brand Marx and the dejected, wealthy, bourgeois Engels who team up to take down global capitalism (that’s a summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one).

According to the synopsis, the events of the film take place in Paris, London, and Brussels in the mid 1800’s, revolving around the budding partnership between Engels and Marx. If the trailer is any indication, the two spend their time fawning over Marx’s genius, yelling at capitalists (“You all are paid to work, not sleep!” a factory owner yells in the beginning of the trailer), empowering the proletariat, and running from the police. The hours spent in the library, writing and researching, seem to be missing (of course, the agonizing tedium of writing is usually missing from films like this one).

Leaving aside the irony of premiering a film about Karl Marx at the star studded Berlinale, “The Young Marx” does look like a fun, if not a bit silly, film – and Diehl’s performance as Marx appears to be exciting (though he is certainly too pretty to play Marx, young or old).

As of now, there is no indication when/if the film will make its way to the United States, but either way, I can already see the promotion posters: “This summer, there’s a new specter haunting Europe: The Young Karl Marx.”

Jake Romm is a Contributing Editor for The Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter, @JakeRomm

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