- Genre: Drama, Thriller
- Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
- Writers: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
- Stars: Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe
When one onanistically prides oneself as supposed “amateur” of “foreign film” it is with no small shame, even guilt, that this reviewer has to report that it’s only now (five years later) that he’s finally watched Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “The Live of Others” (“Das Leben Der Anderen”).
This film won The Academy Award (Oscar) for “Best Foreign Language Film” and all sorts of other European film awards, back in 2006 when it was released … and I missed it; until now.
In 1980′s German Democratic Republic (a dictatorship), East German Secret Police a.k.a. Stasi surveillance agent Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Muhe) is sent on a mission to keep tabs on potentially-radical playwright Georg Dreymann (Koch) and his live-in lover actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Gedeck). H.G. Wiesler is a stickler for procedure. Having performed numerous 40-hour interrogations of “suspects,” he knows exactly how to break his prey, have them begging for rest and doing any deal to free themselves from “the process.” But Wiesler starts to see witness “excess and insubordination” in the upper echelon of the Stasi, and embarks upon a personal journey where his supposedly-objective reports to base become as much a “convenient narrative” as those plays written by those suspected writers he’s tasked with investigating.
“The Lives of Others” is one of the most competent and understated films this reviewer has ever seen, depicting how everyone who covets political power must first be subverted or entrapped by “some leering honey trap” or other; “some personal indiscretion.” The control with which writer/director Donnersmarck treated his subject matter has to be commended. There were no extravagant car chases through East Germany, no spectacular pyrotechnic explosions, no Grand Heroic Acts, as such. Nothing other than ONE GOOD MAN against the injustice of a broken system; as are all abstracted systems. Broken, inhuman, alien.
“Find big things in small things,” is how Donnersmarck’s astonishing film was constructed. From the artistic director’s muted colour palette, to Muhe’s real-life surveillance under Stasi East Germany himself, down to the actual machines used to do the work in that time. Reality oozes from every pore of this 5/5 production.
The subtle and beautiful ending was just “Perfekt.”