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Extremist self-portrait

Regissør: Karen Winther

How do you leave communities that expect lifelong fidelity and respond to outbursts of brutal reprisals? Karen Winther portrays in Exit the often dangerous liberation struggle.


Right-wing environments are in full swing in our cultural sphere – from Sweden to Greece and the United States. At the same time, IS and related organizations are hijacking more and more – all of whom are willing to sacrifice most for their cause. What happens when you have had enough – when you realize that you have made a fatal mistake?

Self exposure and access

Director Karen Winther herself was in the Oslo Blitz environment before she switched to violent neo-Nazism. She has portrayed her time in these environments in her award-winning documentary The Betrayal (2011). The background she shares with other former extremists she meets Exit - from Denmark, Germany, the US and France – allows for recognition and recognition. The viewpoint is liberating demystifying and avoids moralizing: “The right-wing environment was not as I expected. We spent a lot of time waiting and listening to bad music – Vikingrock. Everyone was paranoid about potential police officers and Mossad agents. ”The director is candid in his own film. The theme from The Betrayal is continued – from her focus on the attraction towards the extremist communities, she emphasizes Exit what triggered the need to break with them. The choice to use herself again in the film may not have been easy: She knows well that exposure has its price.


One of the scenes that moves me the most is low-key and filmed from behind in a car. Karen confesses to an assault on Danish Søren, a former militant anti-fascist (the film does not just deal with the usual right-wing extremist communities). The thought between the formerly violent counter-poles appears in a hand that touches an arm lightly, in the tone that gradually becomes more intimate. Karen shares from an incident when she was recognized and badly attacked on her way home. She bursts into tears. Right afterwards, they both realize that they would probably have seriously hurt each other if they had met when they were extremists.

Compassion and remorse

The scene is representative of presence and proximity Exit ability to convey. The film portrays almost a bunch of former extremists and what became their turning points. It offers unexpected human encounters across groups and prejudices. Several of the participants in the film are now active in informational work in schools or in aid telephones. At the same time, there is an awareness that committed hate crime cannot be undone or necessarily forgiven. 

The film portrays almost a bunch of former extremists and what became their turning points.

At American Angela, I sense the desperate pursuit of belonging that several of the film's actors sought in the extreme environments, but first found among others who have taken the painful way out. Angela talks about bullet holes in the front door and threats from other skinheads when she wanted to break up with the group – they said, among other things, that they knew where her little brother lived. Therefore, she dared nothing more than get involved in the movement, and ended up in prison for a hate crime. A newspaper article about her as she sat inside was hidden by a colored woman to protect Angela from her fellow prisoners' anger. That a person she initially classified as an enemy was the one who protected her, changed her.

trigger points

What happens when the limit of what you are willing to do is reached? This issue is the film's focus. As a right-wing extremist, Angela believed in conspiracies that wiped out the US white population. She was blinded by fear, until the Okhlahoma bomb narrowed. "My first reaction was that he's like me. I began to wonder – is this what I want? A nursery was in the building. Firefighters carried out children covered in soot – it was impossible to see if they were dead or alive. ”

Exits point of view is liberating demystifying and avoids moralizing.

German neo-Nazis were seen by right-wing extremists in other countries. In archive recording with the media creator Ingo I quickly understand why. The androgynous, blonde man with pop star looks was eloquent and very carimastic. The meeting with a filmmaker who hated everything Ingo stood for and who followed him very critically for six months, becomes reassuring to him. After an assassination fire with several dead refugees, Ingo realizes that his own followers may well have been behind, and are fleeing abroad for distance. After more than a decade, he still lives in a secret address.

Alluringly dangerous

Exit opens violently with clips from the movie Christiane F (1981), and the director who admits that the depiction of the dangerous toy with drugs and the underground environment seduced her instead of deterring her. The forbidden and unknown were alluring.

The film alternates between identification with and identification av – and this is a great strength.

When things got too dangerous and Karen wanted out of the neo-Nazi environment, she desperately sought help from the flashes she had previously betrayed. Karen thinks Guro saved her, but Guro doesn't agree – she doesn't save Karen, but the growing neo-Nazi environment could do great harm. Karen was in the process of building a violent Nazi club – inspired by the Blitz environment's good organizational model – when she jumped off. If she had succeeded, the recruitment of boys into the neo-Nazi milieu would have also skyrocketed.

Empathy and identification

Exit switches between identification with and identification av – and this is a great strength. The film grip provides a certain distance to some of the contributors, such as the East German ex-neo-Nazi who looks away in all footage. The eyes of a high-pregnant immigrant woman he kicked and punched until the birth was started have burned into him. He states that the premature child has survived. But even when he says he got his teeth smashed – the punishment for leaving the environment – I can't feel empathy. Not even when it emerges that now, as a toddler, he constantly fears revenge for his past wrongs. The fact that the man is posting about unemployment and poor economy after the fall of the East German regime makes his xenophobia understandable. But assaulting a pregnant mother and beating her up while protecting her other toddler is incomprehensible.

Exit conveys a complex and nuanced picture of extremism and the way out, and dares to show the violent face of violence.

Ellen Lande
Ellen Lande
Lande is a film writer and director and a regular writer for Ny Tid.

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