Raised in a good German family, 20-year-old Luisa (Mala Emde) is now in open revolt, part of a different breed of good family. She’s a first-year law student and ardent antifa warrior, determined to defeat a resurgent wave of neo-Nazis in her town. Her parents are part of a local hunting group and like to hang up their kills in the woods – but Luisa is now veggie and wants no part of that world. “A pity,” says her dad. “You were always our best shot.”
This year’s Venice film festival has been notably lacking in big studio films and this has freed up space for the occasional rogue interloper or narrow-eyed insurrectionist. And Tomorrow the Entire World, by the German writer-director Julia von Heinz, blasts on to the Lido to tell us about harsh reality and the current field of conflict; a terrain that’s at once under our very noses and impossibly removed from the sunny tourist haunts of Venice. The tale drifts and falters when I wished it would have hit home with more conviction, but that may be partly the point. The struggle is endless, unwinnable. Everybody is compromised.
We’re in the city of Mannheim, although it could be any number of others. Von Heinz’s drama unfolds in a no man’s land of underpasses, kebab shops and unclaimed ground. It’s a place of doorstep drinkers and bus-shelter smokers, a place to be fought over by left and right alike. In class, Luisa learns that the German constitution allows for pre-emptive action to be taken against non-democratic groups. But who makes that call? Who decides which group is which? It depends which end of the telescope you’re looking down.
On TV, for instance, the newsreader refers to “clashes between rightwing protesters and leftwing protesters” and the blithe moral equivalence – the reductive even-handedness of the comment – immediately sticks in the craw. But, in the case of P31, Luisa’s antifa collective, it may not be entirely wide of the mark. The group is led by Noah Saavedra’s preening, macho Alfa (the name is a little too on-the-nose), who appears to have little interest in ideology and idealism beyond the opportunities they provide to pick fights or get laid. Alfa, by and large, is in antifa for the thrill, and his unconvincing relationship with Luisa is probably the film’s weak link.
Or perhaps what Von Heinz is showing is a crucial changing of the guard: the way in which a new arrival such as Luisa – for all her baggage and privilege – can redirect the movement back to its core principles. Tellingly, this is a film full of flawed men. They’re either playing the role of a pound-shop Che Guevara, like Alfa, or living a lonely hermit’s existence like Dietmar (Andreas Lust), a legendary 90s radical who’s now gone to ground. The women, by contrast, are the tale’s true believers.
After a scuffle with skinheads, Luisa and Alfa get their hands on a cheap burner phone. This in turn leads them to a Nazi rally by the rail tracks and a mysterious lock-up garage outside town. Proceeding along its stealthy course, Von Heinz’s tense, well-textured film treads a chilly, liminal country. Its activists are bundled in fleeces and scarves, warming themselves around matches and rollies, like soldiers in the trenches of a new kind of campaign. When a pigeon beats its wings inside a darkened multi-storey, it sounds for all the world like a grenade going off.