The Lives of Others [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français) [Import]
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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."
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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?Read more ›
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.
There is certainly a historical purpose for making and watching this film. The German Democratic Republic, the DDR, was a fact of life until 1989. Though it was despised for its erection of the Berlin Wall and its brutal contempt for human rights, it was believed by many in the West to be a significant economic power and one of the East Bloc's success stories. The fall of the Berlin Wall revealed those beliefs to be untrue and eliminated the oppressive state apparatus that had governed millions of Germans since the late 1940s. Anything that makes more aware of the reality of those lost decades is to be commended.
More importantly, however, The Lives of Others asks important questions about the value of truth in human life. Can we live with lies on an industrial scale? How much untruth can we tolerate in order to further our careers and keep ourselves out of trouble? What price do we pay if we swallow the lies or rebel against them?
The watched is Georg Dreyman, a playwright known for his ideological plays, and the only living East German playwright who is read in the West (the film being set in 1984). His plays express the possibility that people are capable of change - much to the contempt of the Minister for Culture, who doesn't believe they are. The corrupt Minister, who has designs on Dreyman's actress girlfriend, orders the Stasi (state security) to investigate him.
Enter the watcher: Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler. Wiesler leads a lonely, fairly meaningless existence, mirroring the feeling of East Berlin itself (as portrayed in the film). But Wiesler also has an idealist streak, in contrast to his more Machiavellian colleagues. This idealism doens't quite mesh with the corrupt system - and perhaps he has sensed this subconsciously for some time. The things he overhears when listening in on Dreyman finally convince him that the system is not what it claims to be, nor what he originally thought it was.
'The Lives of Others' is certainly worth watching for the evocative historical atmosphere it creates. Worth noting, too, is the ending, set two years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Dreyman attends a new version of one of his old plays in Berlin, and comes face to face with his old enemy the Culture Minister. The latter expresses his contempt for the new Germany, saying it gives people "nothing to believe in, nothing to rebel against".Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Great great great movie. I think anyone who has ever lived behind the iron curtain can relate to a lot. Read morePublished 11 months ago by DD
I was really surprised by this film. The sound and video are great. I would say this is in my top 5 films of all time.Published on May 22 2014 by dpil
Having lived in Germany during the period in which this film is based, I know exactly what went on in "The East". Anyone looking to discover the truth ...... Read morePublished on Nov. 11 2013 by Bitburger
One of the best movies ever. The acting and story line were awesome. Highly recommend this movie. It also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.....Published on June 15 2013 by Brenda Harrison
the lives of others is a very complex movie in terms of other people watching and listening to other people going ones,
that's done with very unusual secrecy, and methods that... Read more
Secret services and their faults. Also, an example of devotion and love. Very interesting! Where there are human beings, there is evil!Published on Dec 23 2012 by Jean
In a heartless time under a heartless regime, somehow, someone found a heart, and faced with a dilemma made a decision, that would impact the Lives of Others. Read morePublished on April 17 2012 by Inkhorn
The Lives of Others (2006)
Drama, Thriller, 137 minutes, German Language
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Starring Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch and... Read more
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