The Lives of Others (Das Lenen der Anderen) is a compelling political thriller/drama set in East Germany in 1984 before the Berlin Wall came down. George Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) are writer and actor, respectively, living together in East Germany. They are well known as intellectual celebrities in the socialist state. They do not, however, always adopt the party line in their thinking. The Minister of Culture in East Berlin becomes interested in Christa-Maria and asks Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe), a secret agent of the Stasi, to check her out. Wiesler sets up surveillance in a flat above them and everything about their lives is recorded and checked to see whether they are loyal to the state or not. Wiesler is ruthless but, as the surveillance proceeds, he becomes increasingly interested in their lives and finds himself having to deal with his shifting thoughts and feelings and his growing disillusionment.
The Lives of Others is a virtuoso piece of film making for this debut by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. From the moment the film starts we are drawn inexorably into the narrative. The plot is superbly paced and perfectly structured and the actors are all outstanding with an inspired, ironic script with moments of genuine humour. It is also one of the few films to have a gratifying conclusion.
The Lives of Others is a deeply satisfying and profoundly thought-provoking movie, particularly when our post-9/11 world seems to be tending toward the loss of some rights, including privacy, in the name of national security. The Lives of Others has very deservedly won more than 33 awards, including the Best Foreign Film at the 2007 Oscars. If there is any such thing as a perfect movie, this one must come close. It is a must see movie!
My Rating: ***** (out of 5)
’A thoroughly compelling political thriller, at once intellectually challenging and profoundly emotional.’ - Claudia Puig/USA Today
’The Lives of Others wants us to see that the Stasi -- at least some of them -- were, like their Gestapo brethren, “just following orders." You can call that naive optimism on Donnersmarck’s part, or historical revisionism of the sort duly lambasted by the current film version of Alan Bennett’s "The History Boys." I, for one, tremble at the thought of what this young director does for an encore.’ - Scott Foundas/LA Weekly