Raoul Peck’s new film, The Young Karl Marx, is finally out in Italy on Thursday. This little debut will surely intrigue the Italian working class. But what can a left-wing viewer who still isn’t familiar with Marx expect from a movie? Every biographer of the genius of Trier had a tough time: every way of presenting his life is inevitably also a different way of understanding the connection between his private life, his political action and his theoretical work.
As the plot normally dominates over the scenes, a film in old costumes always runs the risk of prioritizing fiction, and of falling into becoming a bourgeois operetta — color aside. The risk is heightened by the actual life of the founder of scientific socialism, who was rich in all kinds of adventure, especially in his youth.
In the beginning of the film, the Rheinische Zeitung journalist is already married with Jenny von Westphalen, the aristocrat who rebelled against her own social class to marry the son of a converted Jew. Their story does not move much forward. The film then tells the story of the encounter with Engels in Paris.