A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
I should watch more German films. Every one that I’ve seen has been brilliant and original in it’s own right. From “The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari” to “Soul Kitchen” to “Run Lola Run” to “The Lives of Others”, each has taken on a different and important subject and explored it in explicit, thorough and entertaining fashion.
“The Lives of Others” takes place in mid-80’s Berlin during the division of the East and West whilst focusing on a singular set of characters that stand for the nationwide issue at hand.
Like how a war film vicariously sends it’s grand message through a symbolic individual narrative, “The Lives of Others” takes on a similar and equally as effecting approach and succeeds admirably.
Surprisingly, “The Lives of Others” doesn’t make it on to the Empire 500 List (yet “Saw” does…). Anyway, that’s a rant for another day. It’s definitely a film that is worthy of a spot; especially as it’s ranked number 55 on iMDB’s Top 250 List.
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “The Lives of Others” (“Das Leben der Anderen” – original title) tells the story of secret service agent Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) and his duties of monitoring famous playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and lover Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck).
Over the course of tapping Dreyman’s apartment an listening to quite literally everything that goes on in his life, Wiesler’s life becomes turned upside down as he becomes torn between his duty and morality.
Required to write detailed reports on a daily basis, a relationship between Wiesler and Dreyman is established, however it is anything but a conventional one.
All in all, “The Lives of Others” shows both sides of the story, offering a glimpse into the personal world of the modern, regimented, dutiful, unrelenting German regime.
The greatest quality to attribute “The Lives of Others” with is its dynamic exploration of character. Circumstances change consistently throughout the narrative, and as a result, opinions of not only the audience, but also the characters within the film alternate dramatically.
Time after time it’s the governing bodies of Deutschland that are made out to be the villain, and lets be honest, they were for the most part, however what’s fascinating to see within this film is the rare portrayal of an agent who is more than an emotionless robot obeying orders.
That being said, I haven’t seen too many German films set in the 1980’s…
Having lived and studied in Germany for the second half of 2014, I took it as an opportunity to watch some classic and well-known German films, whilst asking around to hear recommendations from the locals themselves. “The Lives of Others” was a recurring suggestion from many.
I was given the film on DVD from a dear friend of mine for my birthday, and I have to say it was not only one of the better German films I’ve seen, it’s one the better foreign films in general that I’ve seen in quite some time.
The two standout performances come from Mühe and Koch. Leading a cast that produce solid performances across the board, Mühe and Koch offer so much pain, so much intrigue and so much passion to their characters, and even though they don’t interact personally, there’s a fantastic sense of parallel and connection occurring simultaneously throughout the picture.
It’s both uncommon and difficult to create a relationship between two characters that don’t meet face to face and represent opposite sides of the spectrum, but “The Lives of Others” manages to achieve it without fault.
Donnersmarck’s “The Lives of Others” is an OSCAR winning picture and a modern German classic.
It’s tense, distressing, emotional, thought provoking, heartfelt and sometimes even humorous.
There’s a lot to take out of the film, but for a taste of what the modern German film industry has to offer, I would definitely recommend this one.
If not for anything else, please seek out “The Lives of Others” and admire how characters are analysed, explored and portrayed in world-class fashion, you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks to Ivo Slowman for the Recommendation.