Customer Reviews: The Lives of Others
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VINE VOICEon February 24, 2007
Hopefully, Academy members will rightfully award the Oscar tomorrow night for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (2006) to 'The Lives of Others.' Writer/Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's debut stands head and shoulders not only over the other nominees, but also over all the nominees for Best Picture. That so-called 'best' list pales in comparison to the heights attained by von Donnersmarck's creation. It is a expertly-plotted, richly-told depiction of life under the dominion of the East German spying apparatus, the Stasi.

'Lives' tracks the Stasi's efforts to bug and disrupt the lives of writer Georg Dreyman (a striking Sebastian Koch) and his actress girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (the incomparable Martina Gedeck). Assigned to the case is Stasi agent, Gerd Wiesler, indelibly played by Ulrich Mühe. The reasons for spying on Dreyman and 'CSM' (as the Stasi calls her)? A Politburo minister has the hots for CSM. That's it. For that most personal of reasons, lives are ruined. A professional reviewer of 'Lives' really hit the nail on the head when he said that the movie turns on the fact that Weisler realizes he is spying into the life of a man who is 'vastly his moral superior.' That's it. You get propelled into Dreyman's life and you are struck immediately and permanently by his decency and the quality of his character. Over time, Weisler starts injecting himself into the proceedings. At that point, the sequence of events is irrevocably changed.

von Donnersmarck's movie is a continual series of one great scene after another. I thought perhaps it had reached its denouement with the fall of the Wall. But it keeps getting better. Dreyman requests his Stasi files. He begins to piece together the story and the role of Weisler.

'The Lives of Others' is 137 minutes of the best entertainment imaginable. Ulrich Mühe is an East German who himself was the target of Stasi oversight. For this film, he was awarded Best Actor at the 2006 European Film Awards. Is there a more just triumph than that?
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on July 5, 2007
I often don't agree with Oscar choices, but this time they got it right.
"The Lives of Others" is one of the most interesting movies about communism that I have seen in a decade; it shows, as few others have, how communism suffocates human imagination...not just stifles political dissent.

A spy - Captain Wiesler - is given the task of eavesdropping on a well known playwright, not for political reasons, but because a communist boss is jealous of the man and wants his female lover for himself. As the spy begins listening in, he begins to question the values of his society and the integrity of his orders.. Up to that point, Wiesler dutifully obeyed without question. But as the spy continues to experience the world of the playwright, he starts to live the subject's life the enemy ironically becomes the friend. The experience helps Captain Wiesler grow in humanity so he ultimately makes the decision to run interference to save the playwright's life.

The film details the transformation of an organization man in a hostile society...and makes us remember the great books of totalitarian dangers such as Animal Farm, Anthem, Brave New World, and of course, 1984. (It is no accident that the key YEAR in which the events take place in this film is indeed 1984). Instead of leaving the viewer in a state of deep negativity, "The Lives of Others" gives us reason to hope, reason to believe that goodness may prevail over corruption. So by the end, I was deeply moved.
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on December 25, 2007
First of all, this is not only one of the best foriegn films I have ever seen, but one of the best films I have seen period! I have nothing to add to the other five star reviews here that hasn't already been covered.

That said, it pains me to report that this DVD release has a serious flaw and that is the subtitling! Some other reviewers have commented on the poor quality of the translation in the subtitles, which may in fact be true. But even more of a detriment is the fact that if you watch this film on a widescreen TV you will not see ANY subtitles at all! This is because the disk was encoded to display the subtitles in the black dead space area, outside of the letterboxed region where film frames appear. Widescreen TVs don't display this dead space, they actually fill up the screen with the letterbox frame which means that the subtitles are completely lost! The disk offers no option to display the subtitles properly on a widscreen format television set, i.e. inside the letterbox frame. This is particularly ironic considering that SONY, the distributer of the DVD, is the same company that manufactured widescreen TV on which I discovered the problem! You'd think that they would have had a clue about how to format the subtitles on the DVD to work on all of their television models! If you have a conventional TV set, then you won't have this problem since it will display the letterbox with the black boundaries intact.

So if you are a widescreen television owner and are fluent in German, then I can heartily recommend this wonderful movie. If not, then make sure you have a conventional set on which to watch this DVD or wait for SONY to fix this embarassing mistake before you make the purchase!
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on February 21, 2007
Gerd Weisler (Ulrich Muhe, appropriately drab) is an East German Stasi (Secret Police) drone: the type of man that his superiors count on to "get" his prey. Early on in this fascinating, superior film, Gerd arrives home from a hard day of spying on his fellow East Germans and prepares a meal: microwaved white rice onto which he squeezes tomato paste from a tube. This scene, in its spare, workmanlike manner sets the course and adjusts the sights of this film: the unremarkable, out of hate and jealousy assigned to bring down those deemed different, those deemed remarkable, those deemed talented. Weisler is the perfect Stasi automaton: a socialist monk with ice-cold eyes and an incorruptible true believer's faith in the system he has sworn to defend against "enemies of socialism" no matter where he finds them.
"The Lives of Others" begins in 1984 a particularly Orwellian date and 5 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Weisler is invited to a night of theater by his school friend and boss Colonel Grubitz (a slimy bureaucrat performance by Ulrich Tukor) for a performance of a play written by Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and starring Dreyman's live in girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck from "Mostly Martha"). Dreyman is tall, handsome, dresses in colors other than grey and Christa-Maria is wondrously gorgeous and a great actress to boot.
As Weisler watches Christa-Maria on stage he also scopes in on Dreyman, via his opera binoculars, watching Christa-Maria with love and admiration. The look of distrust and envy in Wailer's eyes is frightening: his eyes widen, squint and widen again. What does Weisler see or sense on that triumphant, for Dreyman and Sieland, night? Is it watching them basking in the glory of an audience's love and appreciation? Is it the palpable love and warmth between the two themselves: something that Weisler has never, will never feel? Whatever it is, Weisler has found his next assignment.
Though Dreyman is deemed "the only writer we have who is not subversive," Weisler forces the issue and sets up a full Stasi surveillance: bugs, cameras and sets up a roost for himself in the attic of the Dreyman-Sieland home.
Then in the process of spying on these two warm, happy, talented, loving people something happens to Weisler: he slowly, through the ugly process of spying, thaws little by little: Weisler falls in love with them and more to the point.., he falls in love with their lives.
First time director, Florien Hinkle von Donnersmarck has produced a remarkable, involving, intelligent film: an intricate, frightening film full of lives caught at the difficult crossroads of patriotism on the one hand and on the other the vortex of individual duty and honor.
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on August 22, 2007
What a powerful movie. I felt the oppressiveness of the system from the movie in a way that i haven't seen since reading Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago". I don't know how anyone survived those decades, let alone how any normal human contact was possible. I wonder even more how anyone in the system like the major character could move from a position of responsibility for interrogations to actively supporting a writer who writes a damning article about suicides in East Germany.

The plot of the movie is actually rather straightforward and linear.
A playwright, a supporter of the regime has a beautiful lover, who is a well known actress.
She is blackmailed into a sexual liaison by a high ranking party member using his threats to end her career or worse.
The official decides to get rid of the playwright-boyfriend using information gained from surveillance by the Stasi on their apartment.
(so far sounds pretty much like David and Bathsheba, she who was the wife of Uriah)

The agent assigned to the case, listens into the lives. While at the same time figures out with his immediate superior that they are being used by the official to further his sexual agenda.

What happens next is that the agent covers up for the playwright's underground activities by submitting false reports that they are involved only in writing a new play, while they are actually moving towards more active resistance to the government.

But the movie isn't about the plot, it is about the character development, in all four major players.
the Stasi supervisor, the agent, the playwright and the actress-girlfriend.
And how the system changes, distorts or reinforces each of their beliefs.

The most interesting one is the agent's movement from a loyal player to a subverter of the system. What are his motivations? are they believable? how far will he go to protect these two people? will he get caught?

it feels like a gripping detective story with lives on the line, with a huge rock ready to drop on anyone of them and poof--into prison.
It is how they adapt to the pressures, how they continue to live with themselves and with their friends that forms the background for the character development.

i love books.
therefore i really liked the ending.
i hope things like this occurred in East Germany, and continue to occur in all those places in the world that are not free to speak their minds and think their own thoughts, in private, and to speak them in public.
thanks to the movie for a thrilling and thought provoking ride.
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The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) is one of the best films I've seen in a long, long time. It's sad, thoughtful and redemptive, and it deals with major themes. We're in East Germany a few years before the fall of the Berlin wall. The Stasi are everywhere, watching everyone and punishing in brutal or subtle ways anyone who might be even an implied threat to the government. Their greatest tool is the system of informers that reaches everywhere, people who may relay indiscretions to the Stasi because they believe in what they are doing, but more often are compromised into doing so. People are given terrible choices to either work with the Stasi as informers or see their careers or their children's futures destroyed. One-third of the East German population is kept under Stasi surveillance. Everyone, it seems, is being watched by someone.

Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) is a playwright who has made his accommodations with the regime, has won awards and has learned not to go too far. The mere fact that he is seen as reliable makes him a subject of Stasi interest. That, and because his lover, the actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), is coveted by a powerful official who wants Dreyman ruined. Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe), a dedicated, colorless Stasi officer, noted for his reliability and interrogation skills, is assigned the job of monitoring Dreyman. This means installing bugs in Dreyman's apartment where Dreyman lives with Sieland, setting up 24 hour monitoring, recording everything and preparing reports. Wiesler takes his share of listening in. Weisler seems to have no purpose but his dedication to the ideals of the East German system, but even he can see the corruption of those ideals. He has no friends to speak of except his boss, who knows which way the wind can shift. Dreyman, on the other hand, is a handsome man of talent who loves Christa and who has seen a close friend and talented director banned from the theater for speaking too clearly. Dreyman gradually finds the conscience he had put on hold in order to be successful. Wiesler gradually finds himself, through listening in, drawn to an awareness of the compromises and corruption he knows has seeped into a system he once believed in. Even more subtly, he finds himself drawn into the lives of Dreyman and Christa-Maria. Slowly, cautiously and anonymously, Wiesler begins to protect Dreyman. All the while we are witness to the pervasive spying on people, the pettiness, the corruption of authority, the use of subtle threats to keep people in line, the almost comic meticulousness of the Stasi and their obsessive record keeping on everyone. The conclusion of the film brings us well past the fall of the Berlin wall, when the full evidence of Stasi spying and the corruption of so many to be informers became evident. We see what happened to both Dreyman and Wiesler. I found the ending to be very, very emotional.

This was director von Donnersmarck's first feature film. He also was the writer. The acting is just as good as the film, particularly Muhe, Koch and Gedeck. Muhe has perhaps the toughest job. He has to show us this dedicated functionary first relentlessly breaking a suspect through calm, psychological questioning, then gradually, gradually letting us see Wiesler's doubts and humanity as he listens into to the lives of Dreyman and Sieland. Muhe makes us aware of Wiesler's changing outlook no faster than Weisler becomes aware of them himself. It's a subtle, strong performance.
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on August 27, 2007
This movie was much better than I had expected. I probably would never have watched it, as movies like this are usually with a political agenda, or too depressing and not very good stories with too predictable endings. It was actually in an article that claimed William F Buckley Jr. said it was the best movie he had ever seen, that caught my attention and got my interest peaked. What sort of movie could get such a reaction out of this guy?

This movie is a great story all on it's own, even if you took the country and political group aside and made them generic, or placed the whole incident on some foreign planet in another solar system.

Watching the movie, at first, I assumed the whole story was just going to show examples of how bad it was in East Germany, and try to preach another message of how bad those type of situations are. I was pleasantly surprised to find a really good, well thought out, story line with an emotional ending that really was unexpected, and I had not seem coming, (very rare for movies today, I can usually figure out how all movies are going to end after watching them for only 10 minutes) and really made for a great movie experience for me.

I am not one for war or military type movies or ones about oppresive governments and depressing situations. Probably because they never have what this movie has, a clever and well written story that isn't all about teaching us a lesson, or preaching propaganda, but a really good story and movie that the big movie companies can't seem to write or produce anymore.

If you watch this and at the begining don't know what is going on, and think it is too hard to follow, just stick with it! Watch it to the end, and you will not be sorry!

I love this movie, because of the individual characters that develop, and what happens at the end, and it goes through any politics or bias, it would be a great story even if you changed the country and regime to something else, because again, it is really about a great story between these individual characters, and not about preaching a political agenda, although such a unique story could not have been made without the setting of this type of situation, so the communist setting is in the story for a reason.

Even in the bonus feature interviews, the director, (who also wrote, casted, researched and made this movie) said he was not out to make a movie with "a message" that seems to be the basic template of most movies today. I'm glad, because when I watch a movie, I want to be entertained or be told a good story, not be forced to watch a 2 hour public service announcement or be taught how to think about a political issue.

Also, I would like to note that the English Subtitles are very close to what is being said in German, which I find usually not to be the case with most movies. I was impressed by the translation. My wife doesn't understand German at all, and only had the subtitles to go by, and she loved the movie as much as I did, and came away with the same strong emotional satisfaction opon it's conclusion.

The Bonus interviews are quite interesting to watch after the movie, giving some interesting and surprising information about some of the actors and thier real life history and experience with the time period and locations the story takes place in. Especially the part about the actor that actually learned how to play piano for the movie.

This DVD takes a proud place in my collection of favorite movies of all time. I wouldn't say it was number 1, but would rank it in the top 10 or so, considering all the movies I have ever seen.

I am not going to explain what touched me the most about this movie, and what is my most favorite part of it, because I don't want to ruin the experience for those who have not yet watched it.

Even if you are usually turned away from this type of movie or story line, I highly recomend watching it, it is a brilliant story that has never been done before in a movie.

My wife and I both felt a very strong emotional "satisfaction" after the movie was over and the credits were rolling. Too many movies today end predictable, or else don't have any ending at all and leave too many unanswered questsions. This one gives a strong satisfied feeling.
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on May 26, 2007
Made on a shoestring budget of $2 million, The Lives of Others is the most suspenseful psychological thriller I've seen in a long time, ranking with Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation and John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate. What's more, it presents one of the strongest pro-individual, anti-collectivist themes of any movie I've ever seen--all the more surprising because it hails from, of all places, Germany.

Its key lies in its title, which seems at first glance drippingly altruistic. The year, appropriately, is 1984, and Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is in his twentieth year as an agent of East Germany's dreaded Ministry for State Security, commonly known as "Stasi." The "shield and sword" of the Socialist Unity Party, 100,000 Stasi agents and 200,000 paid informers hold the small Soviet satellite nation in a death grip, monitoring and controlling the lives of its 17 million citizens.

Captain Wiesler is a meticulous interrogator, ruthlessly wearing down suspects until they confess. An instructor at the Stasi academy, he trains future agents always to be on guard. "The best way to establish guilt or innocence is non-stop interrogation," he instructs his students. "The enemies of the state are arrogant. Remember that. "

A humorlessly menacing man, Wiesler leads a lonely, Spartan existence in an antiseptic, sparsely furnished apartment in a concrete high-rise that houses many fellow agents. One day at the academy, his former classmate and current boss, gregarious Lieutenant Colonel Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), drops in with an assignment right up Wiesler's alley. One of their artists appears to be straying from the flock, and Wiesler has been assigned to watch him. However, the subject in question is no dissident, but the most celebrated playwright in East Germany, Georg Dreymann (Sebastian Koch)--a citizen so loyal to the Party that he believes his is "the greatest country on earth."

Later that evening, spying from a balcony seat with opera glasses, Wiesler detects the mark of subversiveness on Dreymann's face as he watches the actors onstage performing his play. As Georg beams with proprietary approval, rising to applaud, Wiesler quietly utters to himself a one-word indictment that seals the dramatist's fate: "Arrogant."

Georg lives with longtime companion Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck)--a radiant brunette who is as celebrated an actress as Georg is a writer (and to whom Wiesler clearly takes a fancy). While they are out of their flat, Wiesler's technical team descends upon their home, bugging the place. "Operation Lazlo" is now in full swing, and Wiesler and his partner monitor their subjects around the clock from the apartment building's empty attic.

At first, the surveillance of Georg and Christa appears fruitless. At a dinner party they host, a hysterical theatrical colleague (Hans-Uwe Bauer), who's suffered detention and psychological torture at Berlin's infamous Hohenschönhausen prison, accuses another director of being a Stasi informer. Georg is quick to defend the man against the accusation.

Yet, through the course of his work, Wiesler makes some rather ugly discoveries about the investigation. He learns that it was ordered at the behest of national Culture Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme), a porcine bureaucrat who's extorted sexual favors from Christa under the threat of blacklisting her. Wiesler also eventually finds his friend Grubitz's schmoozing to be a cover for vicious social climbing and discovers that Grubitz is complicit with Hempf's scheme to use Stasi as a cat's paw to eliminate Georg, his romantic rival.

Within Wiesler stirs a realization previously kept repressed: that his unquestioning faith in his country has enabled not his ideal of the perfect socialist state, but the hideous arrogance of avaricious thugs who run everything in the "workers' utopia."

Where once was the heel-clicking impersonality of a robot, a conscience begins to grow. Wiesler comes to view Georg and Christa and their circle of bohemian friends not as specimens under a microscope, but as real individuals, with hopes and dreams, loves and heartbreaks. Having grown a conscience, he soon also yearns for a heart, as he silently assesses the utter emptiness of his own life.

Swept up in his subjects' personal lives, Wiesler's detached spying turns into voyeurism. But it isn't a perverted voyeurism, because, for the first time, the lonely captain catches a glimpse into a world of beauty, poetry, and music that is alien to his two-dimensional existence. Sympathetic to the predicament of these enemies of the state, Wiesler begins covering for them, faking his reports, and remaining silent about Georg's gradual disillusionment with the DDR after an old director friend (Volkmar Kleinert) commits suicide.

He overhears an argument in which Georg confronts Christa with knowledge of her affair with Hempf. Christa--already insecure about her talent--explains that she fears being blacklisted if she breaks it off. Wiesler feels compelled to protect her: He accidentally-on-purpose runs into her in a bar, pretending to be a fan, and tells her that her performances have inspired him. "Many people love you for who you are," he says, sincerely. "You are even more yourself onstage than you are in real life."

Christa dismisses his compliment, telling Wiesler he can't really know her. "Did you know that I would sell myself for art?" she asks. "But you already have art," he counters. "That would be a bad deal; you're a great artist."

Though his simple compassion, he gives Christa the strength to believe in herself and renounce her extorted affair with Hempf. But in doing so, Wiesler unintentionally sets into motion a nail-biting series of events that leads inexorably both to tragedy and redemption.

The Lives of Others is a superb film, top-drawer in every regard. Cathartic and ennobling, it recalls Fahrenheit 451 and We the Living in its presentation of tragic heroes forced to examine their deepest-held yet deeply mistaken principles. Hagen Bogdanski's cinematography is compelling; through subtle differences in lighting he gives Silke Buhr's sets an additional dimension that places the characters in emotional context. Shot with tungsten-balanced film, Georg and Christa's incandescently-lit apartment radiates warmth; yet by capturing with daylight film the omnipresent, fluorescent-lit settings of the Stasi world, Bogdanski renders it cold and bloodless. Gabriel Yared's simple, haunting soundtrack is the perfect evocative counterpart for the action onscreen.

The acting is realistic, but never naturalistic. Martina Gedeck is a pleasure to watch, not merely because of her physical beauty, but for her impressive emotional range. Ulrich Tukur's capacity to turn on a dime from regular guy to cold-blooded manipulator is simply scary. And Sebastian Koch combines a physically imposing presence with a gentle, almost fatherly manner, reminding me of a younger Rutger Hauer.

But Ulrich Mühe steals the show as Wiesler. I have never seen an actor convey such a broad range of feelings within such narrow parameters. Where a Pacino or a Steiger would explode with ferocity, Mühe underplays, moving the audience with the sudden shift of an eyebrow, the drawing-in of a cheek muscle, or the quiet fall of a teardrop that betrays his sphinx-like façade.

Mühe began his acting career in communist East Germany. When government records were opened to the public after German reunification, he learned that his actress wife had been informing on him to the Stasi during the entire six years of their marriage. Clearly, he drew upon this reservoir of traumatic betrayal for this role.

The Lives of Others is flawlessly crafted, completely engaging the heart and mind. Most impressive is the fact that it's Henckel von Donnersmarck's feature film debut, released while he was still at the relatively young age of 32. In a recent interview, von Donnersmarck--who saw life behind the Iron Curtain first-hand when he visited family in East Germany as a child--spelled out his thoughts on communist repression as well as independent filmmaking:

"The [phrase] 'Independent film' makes sense to me only if it means that the director has full artistic control. How could a film be independent otherwise? ... I know that very well from East Germany: Until the Wall came down, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat had Final Cut on everything: novels, plays, films, even paintings. Make no mistake: hardly ever did they actually censor anything. But looking back at the art of those four decades, you can still feel the state in everything, and most of the art of that era is very impersonal and boring. Because the artists censored themselves, often without knowing it."

Imagine my surprise, then, when the PC crowd at the recent Academy Awards ceremony--who feted environmental scam-artist Al Gore for his global warming crock-umentary--also bestowed the Best Foreign Language Film award upon The Lives of Others, rather than upon heavily favored Pan's Labyrinth. (I think Lives deserved the nod for Best Motion Picture overall, but I'm not unhappy that the Academy gave that award to director Martin Scorsese's The Departed, a consolation prize for snubbing him so many years.)

This cinematic masterpiece is a cause for celebration. Rarely has a filmmaker burst on the scene in such total command of his material. As a directorial debut, The Lives of Others belongs in the same company as Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. I can only hope that Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has a Touch of Evil yet to come.
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on May 6, 2007
"The lives of others" (= "Das leben der anderen") is a wonderful film directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Truth to be told, I hadn't heard his name before, but I'm certain that I won't forget it now. This film, his debut as a director, is simply exceptional. An engaging political thriller, this movie is at the same time a complex study regarding the power of choices, and the way we behave when faced to our worst fears.

The story is set in East Germany in 1984, when the lack of freedom and the zeal of the Secret Police (Stasi) were pervasive. Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is an agent that specializes in discovering "traitors", that is, those that don't agree with everything that the government says. Wiesler is very good at his job, and has no mercy for those that don't add up to his ideal of what a good socialist should be.

That is probably the reason why his superior assigns him the task of of spying on Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), a well-known socialist playwright that is nonetheless suspicious, due to his friends. Dreyman lives with his girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), a talented actress that loves him but has sexual trysts with a powerful government official that promises her that she will never be in the black list of artist that cannot work.

As Wiesler learns more about the couple, thanks to the hidden microphones his team installed in their apartment, he starts warming towards them. He even protects them when Dreyman becomes actively involved in "subversive" activities, as a reaction to the suicide of a friend that had been blacklisted. But how far will Wiesler risk himself? And can human beings really change?

Strangely enough, "The lives of others" tackles those difficult questions in a manner that leaves nothing to be desired, and makes you think almost involuntarily about many more that have to do with them. On the whole, I must say that I cannot recommend this film strongly enough. Please don't miss it...

Belen Alcat, May 2007
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DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN (The Live of Others) is a powerful film that opens a window to the West of what life was like in East Germany during the time of the Berlin Wall. It is a tense yet balanced work by newcomer writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck who manages to present a tense story of espionage, suspense, intrigue, and political danger without the need for car chases, explosions, gunfire, or any of the usual accoutrements that pulse through other stories of this nature. Instead von Donnersmarck shows us the interior lives of his characters, both those working with the East German government and Secret Police and those who struggled to survive individuality. One of the primary jobs of the Secret Police (Stasi) was to spy on informers and those who would leak information about East Germany to the West. One fact that was kept under lock and key was the high rate of suicide, especially among artists who could not bear the crushing eye of the Eastern police, that would be devastating information if leaked into the press of the West: this forms the nidus for the story of this film.

It is 1984 and one agent - Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is assigned the duty of spying on popular playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his live-in girlfriend, brilliant actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck). Dreyman is a friend of blacklisted director Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert) and when Jerska commits suicide Dreyman feels compelled to get in the information to the West into a popular magazine in hopes that action will be taken. Wiesler alters his spying routine when he discovers that the Stasi official to whom he reports has different designs on Georg and Christ-Maria and his spirit shifts subtly in support of the artists. It is this inner struggle within Wiesler that alters the manner in which his spying information is reported and Wiesler's courageous deeds alter the Secret Police plans to destroy the artists' venture. The manner in which Weisler interplays with the Stasi and covers for the artists is a towering example of the dignity of the individual human soul threatened by the worst of circumstances. The results of Weisler's decisions alter with the fall of the Wall in 1989 in a deeply touching yet very subtle way.

The technical aspects of this film - cinematography, pacing, lighting, editing, and the splendid musical scored my Gabriel Yared - are as fine as any film created by seasoned directors. The manner in which von Donnersmarck keeps every actor focused on the inner personality, as much by body language and silences as well as by dialogue, is astonishingly fine. This is a fascinating story, told with elegant understatement and most worthy of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, March 07
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