Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others (AKA Das Leben der Anderren) is a film about East Germany in the 1980s. So many films focus on 1930s and 1940s Germany--for obvious reasons--but the Soviet Bloc era warrants more exploration. TLoO follows three main characters: one member of the Stazi (East Germany's secret communist police) and two members of the country's art community (a playwright and an actress). The trailer doesn't have any dialogue (the movie is in German with English subtitles), but will give you an idea of the film (it's also a very clever trailer ... there aren't too many trailers that can give you a better idea of what's going on without the use of audible words):

As you may suspect, the once-proud Stazi official becomes involved and intertwined in the story of the two artistes and he begins to examine his life and his job as a monitor of all things anti-socialist. Not being a Modern German historian, I feel like this is an accurate portrayal of life in communist Germany. I even imagined myself showing clips to future students if I gave a lecture on communism and/or the USSR.

The acting and direction are good. Ulrich Mühe, the actor who plays the Stazi official (and who I have not seen in other films), does a fantastic job. His character has to convey emotion while not display an overwhelming amount (it would subsequently render his character far less believable). Sebastian Koch portrays the troubled playwright also does a fine job (you might recognize him as the "nicest Nazi in Holland" in the film Black Book). There wasn't anything striking about the film's direction, but there wasn't anything distracting or annoying either.

The only thing about this movie that I would change--or at least shorten--is the ending. You get to a point in the film and you think, "Ah, okay, here's the end" ... but then it goes on for about ten more minutes. I won't give anything away here, but I felt like the ending wrapped up things a bit too nicely (although I'm sure a lot of you out there will appreciate that).

Final Grade: B/B+
Blurb: An interesting look inside communist East Germany, this storyline entices you, much like the Stazi official, to become captivated by the events in the lives of its main characters.

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