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MUNICH (Reuters) - A film about the rise and fall of the Red Army Faction, a group of left-wing militants suspected of killing dozens of prominent West Germans decades ago, premiered in Munich on Tuesday with a graphic account of one of post-war Germany's darkest chapters.
The documentary-style thriller already has been picked as Germany's entry for Best Foreign Language Film for this year's Oscars, and it is believed to be the most expensive movies ever made in Germany.
Produced by Bernd Eichinger, best known for "Downfall" in which he fueled controversy with his human portrayal of Hitler's last days, "The Baader Meinhof Complex" is based on a bestseller book by Stefan Aunt.
Aunt and the filmmakers say they have paid close attention to detail, including the number of bullets used in each assassination, and tried to make an authentic account of the movement without glorifying the militants.
"If you move from the romantic idea ... into terrorism, you should realize you are kissing goodbye to your own inflated ideas of ethics," Aunt told Reuters.
"I believe they realized the lowliness of their doings," said Aunt, a former editor of Der Spiegel newsweekly.
The Red Army Faction is suspected of murdering 34 people, mainly senior figures in the West German establishment, between 1970 and 1991.
Also known as the "Baader-Meinhof Gang" after founders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, the Red Army Faction grew from the left-wing student protests and anti-Vietnam war movements in the late 1960s.
Its members were angry with their parent's generation who had lived through the Nazi era and had gone on to live capitalist, and -- as they viewed it -- middle-class lives.
Figures killed by the group included Dresdner Bank head Juergen Ponto and federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback.
The peak of the group's campaign of terror was the 1977 kidnapping of industrialist Hanns Martin Schleyer whom they held hostage for over a month. Eventually he was executed; the identity of the faction member who shot him remains a mystery.
Some 26 members died during their campaign and many were sentenced to long prison terms. Baader and Meinhof were caught and committed suicide in prison. In 1998, the Red Army Faction said it was giving up its struggle and disbanded.
Many members have now been released and are working as teachers, accountants and journalists, some under new names.
"The brilliant performance by the cast and the extraordinary adaptation of the story allows a view of the early 1970s in the West Germany without glorifying the perpetrators," said a jury appointed by German Films to select its entry for the Oscars.
The movie opens at cinemas across Germany on September 25.
Writing by Madeline Chambers