Michael Kohlhaas is not an especially tradeable name here in the UK, so for its release on these shores, the French film has been given the unwieldy and rather generic title Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas. It’s a misleading renaming, as the film would be siginificantly more interesting if there was any hint throughout its stretched two hour running time that this was, indeed, an age filled with unrest and political turmoil. Instead of it being a Saxony version of Braveheart, however, it’s just about one man’s personal beef with a baron and the escalating violence that follows it. One character even points out that Kohlhaas, in balance, had it good, so there is no sense of a grand, region-wide struggle against oppression. He gathers round him a bunch of losers and loners, but their cause is not just, it’s just violent.
That’s perhaps the point of it all, however – that sometimes people are just violent – but when this film comes to the end of it all, and justice is served (in a way), you have to wonder what the point of it all was. There may be meaning in the meaninglessness, but that doesn’t make it any more dramatically satisfying. It’s astonishing that a director could point a camera at such beautiful scenery and such talented actors and still come back with something this inert.