Friday, May 11, 2007


Yesterday I saw The Lives of Other People (Das Leben der Anderen, 2006).* I’m usually a little prejudiced against seeing any movie I've so frequently seen the trailer for. I see this trailer three times a week. But I wanted to see something and this was available. The movie centers around the Spartan loneliness of one East German Stasi officer in the years leading up to perestroika. By night he interrogates suspected dissidents (always careful to retain their scent for the hounds!), and by day he teaches up-and-coming secret cadets using last night's taped confessions. One night at the theater, his attentions move from the stage to the dramatist sitting in the sidelines. Soon the curtains close, but the officer is still watching. What is it that motivates him into observing this man who is described as East Berlin's only non-dissident writer? With help from a superior with ulterior motives, the officer soon has the playwright's life in full focus: his apartment is riddled with bugs and wiretaps, there's a high-tech command center in his attic. The movie treats the officer and his growing connection to the life of the dramatist with a compassionate understanding surprising for the historical nearness of this paranoid era. Then, events take a turn for the worse in the writer's life: his girlfriend is coerced into a humiliating relationship and his blacklisted mentor kills himself. He begins to question his faith in the party. We watch these things happen to the playwright as well as the officer in the attic, and we see the Stasi's boundaries slowly erode. This is a deeply textured and caring film, with only one instance of boneheaded movie-land melodrama conceived to neatly save the finale from that last unpainted corner. Forgiving this, the movie is utterly top notch. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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