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Plot: In the early 1980s, Georg Dreyman (a successful dramatist) and his longtime companion Christa-Maria Sieland (a popular actress), were huge intellectual stars in (former) East Germany, although they secretly don't always toe the party line. One day, the Minister of Culture becomes interested in Christa, so the secret service agent Wiesler is instructed to observe and sound out the couple, but their life fascinates him more and more. Runtime: 137 mins Release Date: 14 Mar 2006
Holy cow! What a terrific movie! I am a voting member of the Academy actor's branch so I get all the films for free. I've seen everything---60 films. This was one of the last 3 films that I saw---because I was completely unfamiliar with the title. This film slowly gripped me, but by the end, the grip was merciless. The lead actor, who should be doing The Life Story Of Peter Jennings, was wonderful. Everybody was terrific. Congratulations to the writers for their perfect structure---and to the director for his flawless storytelling---and his eliciting of top performances from his <more>
actors. How well cast it was. But now I'm totally bewildered. Why haven't I heard anything about this film? Where was this film at the Golden Globes? I haven't even seen any reviews about it. Nothing! What's going on? I'm very active in the film business. I follow this stuff. This film that I never heard of took me by surprise as no other film has ever done. Note to the IMDb: This is not a spoiler. Jesse Vint III
A stunning directorial debut which deserves to be seen everywhere (by ahammel-1)
Because this movie deals with recent German history, some German comments about it get sidetracked into minute historical discussions. Forget them; Das Leben der Anderen is an outstanding movie that should be seen everywhere.The former East Germany, a relatively small country of 16 million people, was controlled by the most sophisticated, cunning, and thorough secret police the world has ever seen, the East German Ministerium für Staatsicherheit, or "Stasi." The Stasi had about 90,000 employees -- a staggering number for such a small population -- but even more importantly, <more>
recruited a network of hundreds of thousands of "unofficial employees," who submitted secret reports on their co-workers, bosses, friends, neighbors, and even family members. Some did so voluntarily, but many were bribed or blackmailed into collaboration.Das Leben der Anderen, "The Life of Others" German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's debut, builds this painful legacy into a fascinating, moving film. In its moral seriousness, artistic refinement, and depth, Das Leben der Anderen simply towers over other recent German movies, and urgently deserves a wide international release. The fulcrum of the movie but probably not its most important character is Georg Dreyman, an up-and-coming East German playwright in his late 30s. Played by the square-jawed Sebastian Koch, Dreyman is an apparently convinced socialist who's made his peace with the regime. His plays are either ideologically neutral or acceptable, and he's even received State honors.Although he is a collaborator, he is also a Mensch. He uses his ideological "cleanliness" to intervene on behalf of dissidents such as his journalist friend Paul Hauser Hans-Uwe Bauer . These unfortunates must contend with every humiliation a totalitarian state can invent: their apartments are bugged, friends and family are recruited to inform on them, and chances to publish or perform can be extinguished by one stray comment from a Central Committee member. The most recalcitrant can be kicked out of the country and stripped of their citizenship, like the singer songwriter Wolf Biermann.Dreyman lives in a shabby-genteel, book-filled apartment with his girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland Martina Gedeck , a renowned actress who often appears in his plays. At the beginning of the movie, Dreyman himself comes under the regime's suspicion, for reasons that become clear only later. The fearful machinery of the Stasi rumbles to life: his movements are recorded, and his apartment bugged. The Stasi had bugging down to a science: a team of meticulously-trained agents swoop into your apartment when you're not there, install miniscule, undetectable listening devices in every single room -- including the bathroom -- and vanish in less than an hour, leaving no trace. Agents set up an secret electronic command post nearby, keeping a written record of every joke, argument, or lovemaking session.The "operative process" against Dreyman is overseen by Stasi captain Gerd Wiesler, played by Ulrich Mühe, an actor from the former East who was himself once in the Stasi's cross-hairs. Captain Wiesler starts the film as a colorless, icy, tight-lipped professional who shows no mercy in fighting the "enemies of socialism": if he needs to interrogate a suspect for 10 hours without sleep to get a confession, he will do so -- and then place the seat-cover the suspect sat on in a vacuum jar in case the miscreant should later need to be tracked by bloodhounds. At night, Captain Wiesler returns to his tiny apartment in an grubby, anonymous high-rise. He settles himself among his inexpressibly drab furniture, eats a meal squeezed out of a plastic tube while watching reports about agricultural production, and then goes to bed alone.As Captain Wiesler listens to Dreyman and his girlfriend he begins to like them, or perhaps envy the richness and depth of their lives in comparison with his own. Perhaps he also begins to wonder why a stranger should have the right to become privy to Dreyman's most intimate secrets: his occasional impotence, his girlfriend's infidelities, his artistic crises. At the same time, though, Wiesler is under pressure: a Central Committee official has made it clear to Wiesler and his toadying supervisor Lieutenant Colonel Grubitz Ulrich Tukur , that Dreyman has to go down. I won't discuss more plot details, as there are unexpected twists. Each of the main characters is drawn deeper into the conflict between Dreyman and the State, and each is torqued by loyalty conflicts that intensify as the pressure increases. The cast is outstanding. Sebastian Koch finds the right combination of poetic detachment and watchful sophistication for Dreyman. Martina Gedeck, as his girlfriend, has the most challenging role, since she's buffeted from all sides: by her suspicious partner, by Stasi agents trying to turn her, and by a lecherous Culture Minister. Ulrich Mühe plays the Stasi agent's transformation with reserve, only hinting at the stages in his character's secret, but decisive, change of heart.Director von Donnersmarck, a blue-blooded West German, has re-created the gray, drained look of the former East, and the nature of Stasi intimidation, with a fidelity that has earned the praise of East Germans. His pacing is relaxed, but doesn't drag; although there are a few longueurs, most scenes unfold at just the right pace, and there are several great set-pieces. One is a bone-rattling episode in the Stasi canteen in which a young recruit is caught telling a joke about East German premier Erich Honecker. Another is the penultimate scene, a masterstroke in which Dreyman gains access to his massive Stasi file, while reading it, suddenly understands episodes of his own life which had never made sense to him before. The ending is perfectly judged; bittersweet and moving without swelling strings or teary confessions.Das Leben der Anderen is an outstanding movie, probably a great one. If it's not picked up for international distribution, it will be a bitter loss for thousands of potential moviegoers in other countries.
I do agree with all the other positive comments, and just need to add that this is the very first movie about the former GDR I saw that is not something like a comedy. Flicks like "Sonnenallee" or "Good bye Lenin" definitely were great and funny, but unconsciously left myself a West German with the impression that the GDR has been a sort of "Mickey Mouse State" full of stupid but charming characters, not really to be taken seriously. After seeing "Das Leben der Anderen" this impression shifted quite a bit: there actually was suffering, killing <more>
desperation and a terribly claustrophobic atmosphere behind that wall. This might well be the most realistic depiction of the dark side of the former East Germany. Thanks to the Producers, actors and director for making this movie. 10 out of 10.
Every positive word written about this movie is absolutely true (by Cloudmeister)
I am still quite speechless. Overwhelmed by how utterly compelling the story was and by how emotive the acting story was. Floored by the unbelievably great character development. This film is close to perfect. It is a spiritual cousin to 2004's magnificent Downfall and shares a lot of similarities with Paul Verhoeven's stunning Black Book from last year, not just because these films share two actors. This multi-faceted character driven masterpiece really is as good as it's hype says.Sebastian Koch in particular absolutely shines. He is one of the best international actors working <more>
today and he follows the brilliance of his role in Black Book with the lead here. With his bohemian, dishevelled good looks and brilliant charisma, he's the best German-speaking actor since Bruno Ganz. But he is far from the only good actor in this movie, Ulrich Mühe as the State Security Stasi agent whose task it is to monitor Koch's suspiciously free thinking playwright, brings another near perfect performance to the movie. Agent Wiesler initially appears to the audience as the polar opposite of Koch's character. With his grey button down clothing, closely cropped hair and consistently emotionless face he symbolises everything about the overbearing untrusting Socialist government of East Germany that is wrong. He could easily have remained that character throughout the whole film but he becomes the surprising emotional centre of the story and the line between heroes and villains is significantly shifted something which extends to the supporting cast as well. Truth be told there are probably only two characters in this film whom I didn't have to rethink my opinion of . Weisler reveals himself as a lonely, isolated man who risks his entire career as his attitude to his subject changes from one of mistrust to one of near-adoration. There is an undeniable link between the two characters even though they never share a single scene and Georg Dreyman Koch doesn't even find about Wiesler until the last 10 minutes of the movie, which leads us up to what should go down as one of the greatest endings in cinema history. Just thinking about the final spoken lines brings the tears to my eyes.As I said, without a doubt one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. And as much as I adore Pan's Labyrinth, this one really did deserve it's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. An absolute masterpiece.
Lives of Others........ don't miss this one!! (by woodvillelite-1)
I am not going to repeat what everyone else has already said as I agree with most of the comments. I have just seen it at the Toronto Film Festival and out of 24 movies I saw.... it far exceeded anything else I saw in the 9 days and can only say it was my #1 favourite. I feel fortunate that I live in such a multicultural city that we have this fantastic festival to see films such as this.I regret that I had to miss the Questions and Answers at the end of film as I had another film to get to. I would love to hear what was discussed if anyone else was there and would like to get back to me or <more>
Excellent film, insightful character studies (by sissoed)
This film, set in the theater world of the mid-1980s, was particularly satisfying to me because I was a producer of avant-garde theater through the 1980s, based in San Francisco but often on tour -- including to international theater festivals in West Germany, communist Poland and communist Yugoslavia in 1987. Although my experience as an American was of course very different than the experience of these East Berliners, there is a mood and sense of personalities in this film that I found authentic and familiar. The people in this film feel like the people I met in the festival bars and <more>
refreshment centers for participating artists and on panel discussions in those festivals. Many commenters here have noted the important character change of the Stasi agent, attributing the change either to his growing appreciation for the humanity of the playwright and the actress, or else complaining that the transformation is unpersuasive. So far as I've read in the comments, no one has focused on the key scene. When the Stasi agent hears the playwright and friends planning the suicide article to be smuggled to the West, he writes up an accurate report on this and hastens to his boss's office. Up until then, whatever sympathies he may have developed for the playwright or for the actress are inadequate to deter him. But when the agent enters the boss's office, the boss doesn't immediately give him a chance to give the report or to say anything -- instead the boss immediately launches into a discussion of a new study analyzing how to interrogate and intimidate artists and writers. The report categorizes writers and artists into 5 basic personality types. The boss says the playwright is a "type 4." He describes how the prescribed approach to intimidate "type 4" writers will result in them losing hope and never writing again. Only after hearing this, and realizing that his report exposing the playwright as the author of the suicide paper will result in the playwright being crushed emotionally and never even wanting to write anything new, does the Stasi agent curl up the report in his hands and decide not to give the report to his boss. The agent's precise motivation is unclear. But it cannot be merely that the agent wants the playwright to be able to continue writing new works. The agent must know that the state will never let the playwright do another play or publish anything, if the playwright's authorship of the suicide paper is known, and yet the agent was ready to expose the playwright anyway. So the agent's motive for suddenly deciding to hide his report is not merely because the state will put the playwright on a blacklist and block him from publishing or getting plays produced. Thus it must be that the agent is motivated to change by feeling a general revulsion against the idea that the state should employ the crushing of hope, of creative spirit, as a strategy for responding to a dissenter whom the agent knows is a genuine supporter of the regime but who sees that it has flaws. It is the fact that the state will destroy the playwright's very desire to write, that causes the agent to change. It isn't clear whether the agent would draw back from inflicting that kind of punishment on any artist, even one whom he felt to be a real enemy of the state, but it is clear that he can't bring himself to inflict it on a man whom he feels is a "good" man like the playwright. And the agent believes the playwright is "good" because the playwright supports what is good about society, tries to correct what is wrong about society, is loyal even to a friend who has made powerful enemies, and treats his lover with compassion even when it appears the lover is betraying him.And the irony -- a good irony -- is that by acting to preserve the playwright's desire to write, the agent winds up being the focus of the playwright's novel -- a novel born of a desire and drive to write that the agent himself kept the state from destroying.Thus it seems to me that the real message of this movie is that even the most unimaginative, bland, uncreative, rigid people -- such as the Stasi agent -- should appreciate and protect the desire that drives creative people who are also "good" people to create works of art and literature.
A wonderful film that deserves a wide audience (by boblovinger)
I saw this film in its North American premiere in a packed theater at the Toronto Int'l Film Festival this past week and was pleased to be part of a standing ovation at the end for the director and star, who were both on hand."The Lives of Others," set in East Germany not long before the fall of the Berlin Wall, tells the moving story of a police investigator forced to confront himself and the work he does. In a society poisoned by secrecy, fear and the abuse of power, a number of the movie's characters -- artists, actors, writers -- must look deep inside and decide what <more>
they are made of; none more so than the investigator.This is a movie that took me to a place and time that felt very authentic, for a tale that was very satisfying.Ulrich Muhe, who plays the investigator, is mesmerizing, and the young director is to be applauded for this, his first full-length film. Some have compared "The Lives of Others" to Coppola's "The Conversation" but the two have completely different story arcs and are only superficially similar.Both my companion and I felt this was our favorite of the six films we had a chance to see at the festival.
I haven't seen any German films since "Der Untergang" 2004 about Hitler's last days which was fairly good, atmospheric and believable. "Das Leben der Anderen" is something else, a mixture of farce and the very cramped German approach to "serious" subjects. Actors make up for lack of performance by over-emphasizing their dialogue.English viewers may not properly "appreciate" the fine-turned original that made me feel like I was hearing a book reading - no living Teuton naturally talks or has ever talked like that, not even our venerated <more>
grandparents. The actors pronounce every chosen line as carefully as on stage, which adds to the painful artificiality of the whole. I abandoned this over-rated attempt after 30 minutes - there are better ways to waste time and learn about the STASI. Two stars are for performance, the third for the content - you can take it as a radio play. The fourth is for the subject.
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "The Lives of Others" is a searing portrait of East Germany in the early 1980's before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The era of paranoia, suppression of free speech, and total state control of everything and everyone is masterfully displayed here in the intertwining stories of the Stasi police officer, his morally questionable superiors, and the actress and playwright they are spying on. Once again, the German people's love affair with authoritarianism and meticulously detailed records is featured here as the most intimate details of <more>
these people's lives are examined and we see the quiet tragedies of their everyday life stemming from their bizarrely married desires for freedom and attempts to rationalize their place and survive in the State and the Socialist movement. Superb acting, an excellent music score, and no-frills direction keep the film taut, sparse, and utterly transfixing in its evolving melodrama.On an obvious surface level, "The Lives of Others" is the most psychologically astute look at voyeurism since Hitchcock's "Rear Window." What makes the film compelling in its slow build up of tension and suspense, is that it is working on so many other levels. It can also be viewed as an allegory for the art of film making or stage directing and writing and the craft of acting, as we see the fractured psyche of the Stasi police officer--much like the blacklisted director character who commits suicide-- who so desperately wants to intervene and direct the troubling lives of those he surveys the writer and actress--both wrestling with their own internal demons as their lives soon become not their own . So while it serves well as a timeless psychological case study into such minds, desires, and paranoia, it also functions as a very timely discussion about how much interference a government has the right to run into the lives of ordinary citizens."The Lives of Others" suffers from one major flaw, which will not be discussed at length for fear of giving away some of its intricate plot twists and theatrical climaxes. In the end, the film misses the final beat as it runs about ten or fifteen minutes too long past what would've been two serviceable and profound endings to arrive at a series of closing scenes that are all too pat. The first two hours were so rife with dramatic irony and subtle tension, that it's a shame the film rolls on beyond what would've been a sublimely ironic and stark conclusion that arrives at a most pivotal moment in world history . Still, there was so much multi-layered and engrossing minutiae in those first two hours that the film's ultimate brilliance can not be denied because of one false note.