15
Mar
08

Movies on DVD Review: The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others

Back in the GDR!

Starring Martina Gedick, Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur, and Thomas Thieme. Directed and written by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

This film resonated with me.

The place and year: East Berlin, 1984. The German Communists have the Stasi, their Secret Police, who make it their job to know everything about everyone. Enter Hauptmann Weisler (Muhe), a Stasi who is good at interrogation. His boss Grubitz (Tukur) gives him a new assignment, coming from Minister Hempf (Thieme): find out whatever possible on playwright Georg Dreyman (Koch). After Weisler “bugs” the apartment he personally listens in on the playwright’s life and discovers the Hempf is forcing Dreyman’s girlfriend Christa-Marie (Gedick) into having an affair just so she can continue living her life of being an actress. Weisler then talks with Gribitz, who tells him that Hempf cannot be recorded. This changers Weisler’s opinion on what he’s doing and what’s going on, as well as how the events will unfold.

What I enjoyed most about the movie was its gritty historic reality. The filmmaker quickly made understood the what, when, where, why, and how of the story. I was also impressed when I found out that all the equipment used by the Stasi was authentic; the props manager had gone through interrogation before and went to museums and private collectors to get them for the film.

Another theme that resonated with me is that of art vs. political culture. In the film Dreyman is the leading Socialist playwright who is so because he doesn’t write anything controversial. His friend and mentor Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert) was deemed “too harsh” on his social criticisms, and had been blacklisted for the past 5 years. His girlfriend is given the opportunity to save her life and continue acting if she “rats” him out. The situation is not unique just to Germany; several cultures have had their moments in time when art and political commentary are sacrificed for what their government feels is “the greater Good.”

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. While the ending was a little happier than I would have imagined, I liked it nonetheless. So if you’re into historic or political thrillers, this is one you need to catch.

Of note, the film is in German with English Subtitles available. 

My grade: A

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