"The Lives of Others" - The Awful Reality of Big Brother in Action
I had recently read Garton Ash's "The File" on his frightening experiences with the East German Stasi (secret police) during an extended visit there in the early 80s, so was somewhat prepared for the some of the vivid subject matter in this film. Anyone seeing this movie will never forget the elaborate extent to which the German Democratic Republic spied on its citizens, the thorough records of evidence it recorded, and the sinister and evil tactics it used to interrogate its victims. This German police state is portrayed as a system so macabre that it rivals and may even exceeds Orwell's 1984. Lives were destroyed, culture uprooted, and friendships were betrayed all in the name of preserving a Stalinist state employing Gestapo tactics. Where the film really takes off is closer to the end when the Stasi finally ceases its extensive surveillance of the writer, Lazlo, long considered a literary icon of the state, because of some tragic and politically embarrassing circumstances. Shortly after this critical turning point, the Berlin Wall comes down and the two Germanys are re-united. It is only then that the Stasi organization is exposed for all its treachery. In the closing moments of the movie, the viewer sees Lazlo in the new Germany effecting his own act of personal reconciliation with the horrors of the past. A very touching and effective treatment of some very grim and stark subject matter.