The Lives Of Others
The Lives of Others is a tight, complex and magnificently crafted film debut from director and writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The plot illuminates the later days of East Germany and in particular the Stasi (Ministry for State Security) monitoring of cultural activities. This is without doubt one of the most rewarding, moving and powerful […]
The Lives of Others is a tight, complex and magnificently crafted film debut from director and writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The plot illuminates the later days of East Germany and in particular the Stasi (Ministry for State Security) monitoring of cultural activities. This is without doubt one of the most rewarding, moving and powerful films I have seen in a long time. I don’t often say this, but The Lives of Others is a must-see movie!
From the onset we are immersed in a culture of control and coercion as Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich M?ºhe – who as an actor in the former GDR was under Stasi observation, his wife being an informant) is assigned to monitor the life and movements of playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). and his girlfriend and leading lady Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck – who was impressive as the lead in Mostly Martha). The cinematography has a strong eye for both the icons of Cold War Germany and also the markers of transition after the fall of the wall (increased traffic, graffiti, litter, consumerism).
The Lives of Others is a study of a historical moment, but also a timely reminder of the darkness of Europe’s recent past. Not just because today’s young adults have no living memory of “the wall” but also because in the west we are voluntarily subsiding into a culture of monitoring and diminished liberty. The proliferation of CCTV and the more pernicious excesses of the “war on terrorism,” mark one aspect of this. The other side is the infatuation with “reality TV” and the idil conjecture and gossip it encourages.
Obsession and fascination with the private lives of strangers and celebrities, including speculation about their motivations often fuels the worst of human traits. The Lives of Others shows us the ugliness this manifested when such indulgence was politically authorised and mandated. Today have a softer version of this, but a story like this one should give us pause to consider the possible implications, both of government collation of private information and of our own obsessive gaze.
This film is not just about eavesdropping and control. There are a lot of pertinent themes in play here – atonement, moral character, gossip, friendship, the power of art and the morality of secrecy. I’m going to hold off a little on reflecting more until a repeat viewing and maybe until more folks have seen and commented on the film.
For now, let me say again – this is a must-see film.
[tags] The Lives Of Others, Das Leben der Anderen [/tags]