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The Lives of Others
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This critically-acclaimed, Oscar(r)-winning film (Best Foreign Language Film, 2006) is the erotic, emotionally-charged experience Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) calls "a nail-biter of a thriller!" Before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, East Germany's population was closely monitored by the State Secret Police (Stasi). Only a few citizens above suspicion, like renowned pro-Socialist playwright Georg Dreyman, were permitted to lead private lives. But when a corrupt government official falls for Georg's stunning actress-girlfriend, Christa, an ambitious Stasi policeman is ordered to bug the writer's apartment to gain incriminating evidence against the rival. Now, what the officer discovers is about to dramatically change their lives - as well as his - in this seductive political thriller Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) proclaims is "the best kind of movie: one you can't get out of your head."
Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this is a first-rate thriller that, like Bertolucci's The Conformist and Coppola's The Conversation, opts for character development over car chases. The place is East Berlin, the year is 1984, and it all begins with a simple surveillance assignment: Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe in a restrained, yet deeply felt performance), a Stasi officer and a specialist in this kind of thing, has been assigned to keep an eye on Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch, Black Book), a respected playwright, and his actress girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck, Mostly Martha). Though Dreyman is known to associate with the occasional dissident, like blacklisted director Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert), his record is spotless. Everything changes when Wiesler discovers that Minister Hempf (Thomas Thieme) has an ulterior motive in spying on this seemingly upright citizen. In other words, it's personal, and Wiesler's sympathies shift from the government to its people--or at least to this one particular person. That would be risky enough, but then Wiesler uses his privileged position to affect a change in Dreyman's life. The God-like move he makes may be minor and untraceable, but it will have major consequences for all concerned, including Wiesler himself. Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck starts with a simple premise that becomes more complicated and emotionally involving as his assured debut unfolds. Though three epilogues is, arguably, two too many, The Lives of Others is always elegant, never confusing. It's class with feeling. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Beyond The Lives of Others
Films from Germany
Other Cold War Films
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from Sony Pictures Classics
- Aspect Ratio : 2.35:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : s_medR R (Restricted)
- Product Dimensions : 7.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches; 3.2 Ounces
- Director : Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
- Media Format : AC-3, Color, Dolby, Widescreen, Subtitled, NTSC
- Run time : 2 hours and 18 minutes
- Release date : August 21, 2007
- Actors : Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Thieme
- Subtitles: : English, Spanish, French
- Language : German (Dolby Digital 5.1), Unqualified
- Studio : Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- ASIN : B000OVLBGC
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #15,491 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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The report is one describing the high level of suicides in the GDR, and is not surprising considering the ubiquitous attacks described in the film on the dignity of those trapped in East Germany. The Communists conducted ruthless surveillance, employed brutal interrogation techniques, found insidious ways to play people (including family members) against each other to create an atmosphere of constant fear, suspicion, and distrust, and found countless other ways to intimidate East Germans.
One sequence shows someone being interrogated about another person who fled to the West—apparently the obtuse apparatchiks never asked themselves that if Communism was so great, why did so many risk their lives (including Vietnamese and Cubans who fled in non-seaworthy vessels) trying to flee Communist countries.
"The Lives of Others" reveals the extent to which the Communist system forced people to wrestle with their consciences and whether to cooperate with the regime and sell out those close to them or whether to resist and face terrible consequences. The movie has a key character that shows even some members of the Stasi were conflicted, and there is one key glimpse of the extent to which ordinary people knew the East German regime was evil.
Unsurprisingly, even after the Berlin Wall fell, it took some of the characters quite some time to come to terms with some of the psychological aftereffects of living in such a squalid regime, and one of the film's key themes is the loss of hope and purpose that comes from living in such a "society." "The Lives of Others" would certainly give any American a renewed appreciation for the Bill of Rights.
"The Lives of Others" won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film for 2006. The film is in German with English subtitles and is rated R for adult content. It is a moving portrait of what it was really like and a reminder of just how terrible it was to "live" under Communism.
German with English subtitles
This is one of my all time favorites. Released in 2006, it won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film and with good reason. It’s a first rate story of spies, intrigue, romance and betrayal.
In 1984, the East German Secret Police decide to investigate a famous playwright Georg Dreyman ( Sebastian Koch) and his lover actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) for possible subversive activities. The investigator assigned to them, Hauptmann Wiesler (the late Ulrich Muhe) is the definitive “grey man,” a pale, precise bureaucrat who has given his life to his grey country but finds himself intrigued by these dissidents.
What none of them can imagine is how enmeshed their lives will become.
The film richly recreates the look and feel of a waning East Germany.
After my six or seventh viewing, I’m still in awe of writer-director Florian von Donnersmarck’s sly storytelling and subtle characterizations. And the film is loaded with exquisite acting.
Gedeck’s Christa-Maria is filled with cross purposes she struggles to hide, the effects of living in a political system with all checks and no balances. Muhe plays a lonely man surprised by the forbidden. Watching him experience a seismic shift in values is a master class in restraint.
It’s worth the subtitles.
To be fair, I did not notice that there were no subtitles in the product’s description when I read it, and I assume that many others will not notice that either.
It covers a period in the DDR,which was the Eastern part of Berlin occupied by the Russians. The inhabitants lives are constantly under surveilance by the ruthless Stasi apparatus(a spy network). The story centers on an actor/writer,his girlfriend and his friends who are
constantly watched and recorded by the master spy of the Stasi who eventually questions his actions and their consequences on the people he has been orderedd to surveil. What I found absolutely profound is that the actor who portrays the spy, actually lived in the Eastern part of Berlin during this time and after the Berlin wall fell, discovered in the secret files stored on him, discovered to his surprise and dismay,that his wife,and some friends had betrayed him by providing the Stasi information on everything he said and did.
The actor died shortly after making this movie. I recommend this film highly. One has to put up with sub-titles,but it's worth it.
Truly a gripping tale.
Top reviews from other countries
The film is set in 1984, and it's central character, Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (played by Ulrich Muche) is tasked with the survailance of a disident playwright, Georg Dreyman. The film follows the survailance, including the installation of listening divaces in his apartment and the death of the informant.
I think the Lives of Others is so powerful because it was made by Germans and is in that language throughout (with English subtitles) and it covers a subject with all East Germans can identify. The film, although fiction shows how the state in real life controlled it's population by survailance and other means. I don't think the film would have been as powerful if it was given the "Hollywood Treatment" with a non-German cast or performed in English
Earlier reviewers have praised the film eloquently, noting the superbly taut production values & mesmerising acting of the protagonists, as well as the pernicious logic & attention to detail of the GDR & not least, the small, redeeming moments of human goodness which make it so powerfully moving, so I will not further elaborate on these things.
One thing that struck me: Weisler, the GDR officer at the core of the film, gradually finds his sympathies drawn towards the people he is spying on. But on my second viewing I saw it slightly differently. I believe his reason for suggesting surveillance was not unambivalently that he was suspicious, as he told his superior, but that from the moment he saw them in the theatre he was drawn to them. He has lead a lonely, narrow life, & it seems feasible to me that he experienced the first stirrings of a suppressed recognition or yearning as he gazed at the writer & actor at the end of the play, as they took their encores. He wanted to be them, or be like them.
In effect & to use modern parlance, he began stalking them under the guise of surveillance, & unwittingly found himself more & more involved with them as a consequence.
If you have not yet seen this film I urge you to do so. This is superlative cinema that you won't forget in a hurry.
This often mundane reality is a long way from exciting Cold War thrillers set in East Berlin like 'Atomic Blonde', 'The Ipcress File' or 'Funeral in Berlin', although the grey world of 'The Lives of Others' is probably far closer to what most people in East Germany experienced at the time.
The story is told partly from the point of view of a writer and his friends and partly from the point of view of the Stasi officer spying on them. The Stasi officer can be a manipulative and ruthless interrogator but begins to be influenced by the people he is meant to be keeping an eye on.
The film is in German (original title 'Das Leben der Anderen'). You may have to click the subtitle button on your remote control to turn on English sub-titles.
This film is based on an interesting idea, but is too long, slow, visually drab and depressing. Perhaps that is what the old Communist East Germany tended to be like but Amazon star ratings invite us to rate films for enjoyment, not historical accuracy or importance of message.
The interviews in the Special Features with the main cast and writer/director, some of whom lived in or visited East Germany and have since read their own Stasi files are interesting; those with the Producers less so.
Some things in this film do stick in the memory but overall, it is not as interesting as Anna Funder's book 'Stasiland' on the same subject, nor the German language film 'The Baader-Meinhof Complex' about communist extremists in West Germany around the same time.
Officer Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe in a stellar performance) is a staunch supporter of the country's vile politics. He decides to bug the apartment of young artist Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his gorgeous girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) as he suspects them to be disloyal to the government. From an attic room, with headphones clamped to his ears, he becomes privy to their most intimate conversations. As time passes he slowly begins to realize the hollowness and sheer hypocrisy of the regime he has so faithfully served all his life. From being a listener he becomes the unseen participant in their lives, a kind of guardian angel, who saves their skins on more than one occasion. But as time goes and he turns up nothing that could nail the duo, his boss becomes impatient and sets into motion a series of events that lead to a startling denouement.
The film opened to rave reviews and won a slew of awards. It was a Golden Globe nominee in 2007 and scooped up the Oscar for the best foreign language film the same year. See it, for Ulrich Muhe as the tortured soul whose larger-than-life performance, is the driving spirit behind this remarkable piece of cinema!
This movie depicts life in East German in the early to mid 1980's, under the rule of a dictatorial state. The story follows the life of a man and his lover, as he becomes aware of just how bad things are. And the undercover police agent instructed to spy on the couple slowly realises that the social order he helps maintain is corrupt and evil.
It's a brilliantly acted film, with a fascinating story. This is a social and political drama, based on what life was really like in the Eastern Bloc.
This film is in German (with English sub-titles). The Blu-ray picture and sound quality is top notch.