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The Lives of Others
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Product Description

The erotic & emotionally-charged story of one couple whose every private moment is being monitored by an east berlin secret police officer (the stasi) who is about to learn secrets that will change their lives - and his - forever. Studio: Sony Pictures Home Ent Release Date: 03/25/2008 Run time: 138 minutes Rating: R

Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this is a first-rate thriller that, like Bertolucci's The Conformist and Coppola's The Conversation, opts for character development over car chases. The place is East Berlin, the year is 1984, and it all begins with a simple surveillance assignment: Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mhe in a restrained, yet deeply felt performance), a Stasi officer and a specialist in this kind of thing, has been assigned to keep an eye on Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch, Black Book), a respected playwright, and his actress girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck, Mostly Martha). Though Dreyman is known to associate with the occasional dissident, like blacklisted director Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert), his record is spotless. Everything changes when Wiesler discovers that Minister Hempf (Thomas Thieme) has an ulterior motive in spying on this seemingly upright citizen. In other words, it's personal, and Wiesler's sympathies shift from the government to its people--or at least to this one particular person. That would be risky enough, but then Wiesler uses his privileged position to affect a change in Dreyman's life. The God-like move he makes may be minor and untraceable, but it will have major consequences for all concerned, including Wiesler himself. Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck starts with a simple premise that becomes more complicated and emotionally involving as his assured debut unfolds. Though three epilogues is, arguably, two too many, The Lives of Others is always elegant, never confusing. It's class with feeling. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Beyond The Lives of Others


Films from Germany

Other Cold War Films


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from Sony Pictures Classics

Stills from The Lives of Others (click for larger image)







Customer Reviews:

  • A masterpiece
    This is a beautiful movie.
    Why can't we make good movies in America anymore?
    Probably because we think that the more expensive they come the better they'll be. The Lives of Others proves the opposite. The budget of this movie must have been 1 percent of a Hollywood Blockbuster but the result is a hundred times better. It's time we learnt that lesson in this country.
    This movie is about how human beings can be redeemed. Without preeching and always very subtly we witness the transformation of a servant of a cruel, tyrannical state into a modern day saint and that transformation is so moving that it had me in tears by the end.
    I recommend this as a masterpiece....more info
  • ONE OF THE BEST
    One of the best recent films produced by German cinema. A subtle and sensitive production. I first saw the film in the cinema and was so impressed I bought the DVD....more info
  • Beautiful film!!
    I'm having a hard time summing up all the good feelings and reasons why I love "The Lives of Others". I can only say this and thats that it is a magnificent film that tells an excellent story about what life was like for Germany back in 1984 when the Stasi secret police would listen to it's citizens very conversations. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is truly a gifted German director as well as story teller, not to mention the three trio of actors Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, and Ulrich Muhe all giving such beyond stellar performances as the main characters. I often found my heart strings being tugged at when watching their characters struggle with a certain conflict. It's a film that shows how unfair people with power can be to people who don't have it and what the end result can be if taken far enough. A beautiful film that no one should miss....more info
  • The Evils of Communism
    This superbly directed film by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck which clearly demonstrates the abominable lack of freedom which was the stark reality in 1984 behind the 'former' Moscow controlled, communist, Iron Curtain satellite of East Germany.

    The very accomplished, but regretfully now deceased actor Ulrich Mhe , himself born in the former East Germany, rivetingly plays the role of Gerd Wiesler, a East German secret police (Stasi) captain, eavesdropping on a celebrated playwright Georg Dreyman played by the wonderful actor Sebastian Koch, of 'Black Book' fame, and his live in girlfriend, portraying an accomplished GDR actress Christa-Maria Sieland, expertly delivered by Martina Gedeck.

    This movie should not be missed!

    The East Germany in this movie was where the current dictator of Russian was previously stationed as a KGB colonel, and now this neo-Soviet butcher is attempting to forcible reestablish his precious Soviet totalitarian empire by initially invading the small independent Caucasus country of Georgia. Which nation is next on the Kremlin's invasion list?

    If Western leadership does not quickly awaken from its self-inflicted slumber and confront Moscow & their cohorts, many of us in the Free World shall be languishing in the very nightmare depicted in 'The Lives of Others', except this time the 'others' shall be 'us'! ...more info
  • Nearly perfect
    As a professional in the "biz," I'm pretty picky when I watch a movie. More often than not, I notice problems in the screenplay, the direction seems clunky, or something else just doesn't work. The price of doing it for a living. THE LIVES OF OTHERS is one of a handful films that I've seen in the least ten years (as in counted on one hand) that seem nearly perfect. A beautiful screenplay, terrific direction, true and mesmerizing acting, incredible cinematography where the light is a character in the movie, outstanding set decoration with vivid, dream-like scenes through a limited color palette, amazingly well researched (my mom grew up in East Berlin - I know), and a beautifully moving story about the tug of war between art and the forces of political repression - a story that resonates far beyond the world of the Stasi, the East German secret police....more info
  • Will probably join your top 10 list
    Once in a while, a film comes along, totally unexpectedly, and reveals itself as not just a great film but one that renews your faith in cinema and stays with you long after it has ended. One that shows that film can be the most worthy art form and one which makes you realise this is what the best of cinema really is - intelligent, substantial and made with integrity without employing silly melodramatic contrivances. The Lives of Others is such a film, undoubtedly one of the best films I've seen in the last decade, an intelligent study of a cold, emotionally stern man who undergoes an emotional awakening and humanizing effect by slowly becoming aware of the richness of life that is eluding his own austere existence.

    The man in question is Gerd Weisler, a Stasi officer in East Germany in the mid 1980's. He's distrusting and quietly imposing, stands by the socialist ideals of his government and is determined to uncover political dissent wherever possible. He is simply a cog in the regime. There is nothing to warm to, no personality, individuality or life in him. He's a robot worker and nothing else. That is until he is called upon to spy on an artist couple in their apartment who may or may not be up to something. We first see Wiesler's distrust of the writer in an early scene, a distrust based on nothing more than a gut feeling - or perhaps from a twang of jealousy of this man's obvious contentment and fulfillment. To Wiesler, he is simply "arrogant" and so must be a cause for concern. I don't need to go into any more detail about the plot here but needless to say it paves the way for some moments of high tension and clever plot devices.

    However, it's what happens to Wiesler's character throughout that really pushes the buttons and makes for such a lasting impression. His transformation from perpetrator to defector, from hunter to protector. During his surveillance mission, he hears everything the couple say and do, mechanically jotting down every last detail in a notebook and then typing up reports. And so he begins to experience the couple's life vicariously and slowly starts to realise that he wants, needs what they have and that he doesn't - friends, love, beauty, fulfillment. We see him start to change, to restrain himself in situations where he would usually impose himself, we see wonderful key moments where he displays acts of kindness and reveals emotions we didn't think he would be capable of. He ends up surprising us, redeeming himself by risking his career and life for the artists, by calmly deflecting the suspicions of his wily superiors about his integrity to the cause, protecting the inevitably tragic couple from above like some personal guardian angel completely unbeknownst to them, who have no idea they are even under surveillance.

    Such a character study would be nothing without a great actor and Ulrich Mhe plays the role perfectly, it's hard to imagine anyone else playing it (what a real shame he passed away recently). His role recalls that of Billy Bob Thornton's in The Man Who Wasn't There, someone who hardly says two words but expresses everything beautifully through his body language and facial expressions. We see him in many different states during the course of the film; from a sometimes menacing and ice cold authoritative instructor and interrogator for the Stasi through to a simple menial state postal worker, allowing time to pass him by as he plods along on his route. He is always believable and an interesting character to watch unfold. The rest of the acting is also first rate, especially from Wiesler's Stasi superiors.

    Despite the obvious differences, I would sum up The Lives of Others as a The Shawshank Redemption for this decade because of its significant emotional arc. It has a beautifully controlled, unrushed poetic approach and you get the feeling that the filmmaker (also a debut) has put all he has into it, has fashioned it with a lot of care and attention. You could also say that like Shawshank, it follows a man's escape from an oppressive and dehumanising regime to become human once again. Also, the happy ending is perfectly understated and although Wiesler doesn't exactly end up finding happiness, he's afforded a sort of standing ovation at the end and his final words in the film will certainly bring a lump to your throat. You'll want to pat him on the back and shake his hand. An unsung hero given and appreciating the recognition he deserves.
    ...more info
  • Great movie!
    I really liked this movie, and think that it deserves the Oscar it got more than many successful films of past years. Good plot, good drama, good filming. ...more info
  • Hard Work
    Selective sub-titles drove me mad. I wanted to enjoy this after all the hype but afraid it just didn't do it for me. I have no criticism of the acting but there was a huge communication gap and it merely drove me to sleep....more info
  • Insightful; 4.5 Stars
    This is an excellent film; writing, directing, and cinematography are all excellent. The acting, featuring wonderful performances by Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Muhe, is superb. What this film conveys so well is the experience of living in a repressive and corrupt police state like the GDR. In proportion to population, the East German State Security service (the Stasi) was impressively large and a significant fraction of the GDR's population were informants for the Stasi.
    The story line is clever. A veteran Stasi operative is detailed to perform surveillance on a well known playwright. The latter, however, is not a dissident but involved in a romance with a talented actress who is being pursued simultaneously by a powerful Minister. The goal of the surveillance is to find something that will allow the playwright to be eliminated as a romantic rival. Both the Stasi officer and the playwright are committed to the regime. The movie suspensefully details their mutual disillusionment and the Stasi officer becomes emotionally involved with playwright and in love, albeit from a distance, with the actress girlfriend. The parallelism is expanded as the Stasi officer creatively fabricates information to prevent the playwright from being jailed.
    The movie does a wonderful job of showing how the nature of the GDR fostered an atmosphere of constant mutual suspiscion, degrading the quality of personal life. The ease with which the system could be exploited by the powerful is shown well also. The multiple humiliating, and often actually degrading compromises of personal integrity and the betrayals needed to get by in the GDR are presented in a matter of fact manner that emphasizes the pervasive effects of the police state.
    The ending, however, is somewhat melodramatic and sentimental, which tends to underlmine the effectiveness of the film's portrayal of the GDR. There is also an element of the romantic notion that art is liberating, which is questionable. ...more info
  • Riveting Account Of Socialist East Europe In The Mid-1980s
    What a great movie in the best tradition of filmmaking. I can't think of a single flaw. Pitch perfect is the pacing, acting, writing and score. This is a real life, genuine thriller wholly devoid of any action scenes. It makes you think. It helps you see the freedom you take for granted. It shows you what happens when you let the ends (socialist utopia) justify the means (gestapo, statism). Don't be so naive as to think it couldn't happen here--and know that the threat is from the left, not the right....more info
  • Hearing the heretics
    It's all about stability - how to maintain it and how to prevent its disruption. In East Germany, from the establishment of The Wall, society found ways to lay out a given path for life. It also provided a traffic control body to keep individuals on that track. The traffic controllers were the staff and informants of the Stasi. Applying various, but effective, methods of thought control, the DDR rooted out dissent in its attempt to keep its populace thinking along "approved" lines. While we have been inundated with books and films depicting brutality, murder and intimidation applied in the East, this film shows an entirely different and far more efficient approach.

    Gerd Wiesler [Muhe], a Stasi captain, is recruited to launch an investigation of playwright Georg Dreymark. There's very little to indicate Dreymark is a threat to society, but the motivation arises from elsewhere. Dreymark's girl-friend, Christa-Maria [Gedeck], is an object of the Culture Minister's passions. Wiesler undertakes the surveillance himself, and his portrayal carries this film far beyond entertainment. We have already seen his interrogation techniques - calm, dispassionate and merciless. Whatever he undertakes will be seen through thoroughly. The surveillance of Dreymark and Christa-Maria will be no different.

    However, Wiesler learns of the Minister's prompting of the spying - a corruption of the socialist ideal. More significantly, Wiesler is able to discern Dreymark's humanity expressed in ways none of his previous victims have demonstrated. One of these is Dreymark's defence of his former play director Albert Jerska. Wiesler sees Dreymark confront the Minister over Jerska and learns the blacklisted director had given the playwright the score of "Sonata for a Good Man". The title becomes a key point in the development of the story. Wiesler revises his outlook as the cynicism and coldness of the regime become more apparent to him. He is increasingly aware of the need for people to be people and not automatons.

    The film story builds tensions at a perfect pace, increasing with every passing scene. There are no dull nor lost moments. Directory von Donnersmarck's light touch in shifting a character we loathe at the outset of the film into a symbol of pathos at the end. While a shallow view makes Dreymark the victim/hero, it is Wiesler the interrogator and snoop who gains our sympathy. Wiesler comes into increasing conflict with his superior as the focus on Dreymark and Christa-Maria intensifies. Jerska's fate drives Dreymark to take an irrevocable step, one which threatens them all. The conclusion can only be tragic, but the result is nonetheless unexpected.

    As with many of the "foreign" films recently released, the Director's Commentary version of the film is well worth taking the time for. This is von Donnersmarck's first full-length film, but there's nothing amateurish about it. He was meticulous in his portrayal of East Berlin, even painting "freedom's graffiti" over each morning prior to shooting in the street. The attention to detail is clear, even in selecting the colours allowed in any given setting. The effect is to seize the viewer from the opening scene and never provide release. The film has garnered many awards and deserves all of them. Mostly, it deserves your attention for its story and its imparted values. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]...more info
  • Wonderful film...
    This is easily one of the top ten films of the past ten years. Beautifully written and acted, it recalls the scary nightmare that was communist totalitarianism in East Germany. I highly recommend it. The funny thing for me is that I ordered this film used from the buyer Planetjman on this site; the seller didn't like the three-star feedback that I gave him. Suddenly, I felt I was in the throes of an Orwellian world, when the seller started threatening me online to change my feedback. I did not. He retaliated by writing a negative feedback about me, but it goes to show how instinctive and pervasive the bullying and "agree with me or else..." mentality is even on something as innocuous as amazon! (An aside: Needless to say, if you buy from this seller, remember to write nice things about him..or else!) That's what this film is about! A must see for anyone who feels the need to glorify communist dictatorships with their thought-police and souless empires....more info
  • A TRULY GREAT FILM!
    If I should pick the five greatest films I have seen in my life, The Lives of Others would be one of them. It is a story of people living in the GDR before the collapse of the Wall. It is a study in how much people can and cannot endure.

    The performances are breathtaking - no point in selecting a few of the actors to praise, as even the actors who have no lines excel in their craft. The music, the costumes, the settings, all are fitting and magnificent.

    Praise must be given the most for the film's creator and director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. He spent many years of his life developing what can only be considered one of the great films of our time. He made this film with limited funds, and even when it was completed, all but one distribution company in Germany refused to be involved with it. Ha! Ha! Ha! on them when it finally won the Academy Award for best foreign film is all I can say.

    I found it fascinating, after watching the film without the director's comments, to re-watch it with the comments. The director shares how the film came to birth, and the many elements which came to play in its making. I saw the film with new eyes as the director related details of each scene's making.

    This is a very exciting film which I know I will watch again and again from here on! And I thank the director for his stamina and persistence in making his vision a reality.
    ...more info
  • Still thinking about it 4 weeks later
    My husband and I watch The Lives of Others and liked it so much, I bought it on Amazon. Even this morning, I found myself thinking about it. There are times when parts of the movie replays, unbidden, in my mind. The movie played on my belief in basic human goodness and in the never-ending capacity of each of us to grow, even in the bleaker times. Even when fear, hatred, horror, arrogance, boredom, and sheer pettiness just seeps through out. This is a keeper....more info
  • Kudos to Ulrich Muhe
    This is the story of an East German Stasi officer sent to tape record the activities of a man so that he can be eliminated from the picture so that a higher party official can get his hands on the man's girlfriend.

    However, thanks to the presence of the East German cinema's late Ulrich Muhe (who was himself followed by the Stasi) this movie is so much, much more. As the film progresses we watch as the dutiful Muhe receives his charge, begins to carry it out and becomes both disenchanted and ultimately noncooperative in the process.

    To my eye, it would seem that in reality anyone with the gravitas that Muhe had wouldn't have been able to function as a Stasi officer in the first place. But movies are wonderful places where you suspend your disbeliefs along with your diet, eat the buttered popcorn and settle in to the movies alternate reality.

    Like Run, Lola, Run and Goodbye Lenin, this is another extraordinary product of a German cinema that's finally ready to move on and make movies about events that occured after 1945 as well as those that occured before....more info
  • Just kidding!
    The other reviews do not lie, this is one of the best films to be released anywhere in the world in the past 5 years. Great script, Deutschland's finest actors, inventive camera work. A bit on the Romantic side (in the German sense), so if that's not your aesthetic cup of tea, this will be a taxing viewing; otherwise its hard to imagine being disappointed!...more info
  • Pacing problems derail otherwise excellent thriller.
    The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)

    Been mulling this one over for quite a while, trying to figure out how to review it. Much of my problem stems from the fact that I don't seem to have been nearly as impressed with this movie as everyone else was; the pacing is awful, the screenplay, despite moments of brilliance, is often wooden, and the camerawork is, for the most part, uninspired. I've seen a good number of movies of this sort, most recently Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, and this one just doesn't hold up in comparison. (And really, winning the Best Foreign Film Oscar over El Laberinto del Fauno? There's really no comparison.)

    Ulrich Muhe, the movie's highlight, plays Gerd Wiesner, a Stasi agent in East Germany in the 1980s, who spies on other people for a living. His old school friend, Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), now a Stasi higher-up, contracts Wiesner to do surveillance on a playwright named Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his leading-lady girlfriend Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck). Wiesner is initially confused, as Dreyman seems to be the perfect Socialist; his plays are beloved of the State, none of his writing has ever been banned, etc. But Wiesner knew from the start that Grubitz had an ulterior motive for having Dreyman watched. Resentful that his services are being used in such a way, when Wiesner finds out that Dreyman is not the upstanding citizen everyone believes, he risks it all to cover for Dreyman.

    The Lives of Others would probably have been a great film had von Donnersmarck (who, as everyone says, really is that good; it's impossible to tell this is the work of a first-time director, though he might have been served by hiring a better cinematographer) known whether he wanted to make a spy thriller, an existential drama, or a love story. Now, we all know it's possible to combine the three and come up with a winner (the Bourne movies, and about a quarter of Hitchcock's output, would qualify), but-- and I realize I'm very much in the minority on this-- I don't think they work here. Von Donnersmarck and editor Patricia Rommel failed to give the movie the pace required for a spy thriller. The characters are certainly deep enough for an existential drama, but in achieving that depth, the love story often gets shunted out of the way. Then suddenly someone realizes what's going on and some other portion of the plot thread gets picked up, and all the work of pushing the existential drama to the fore gets dumped. Von Donnersmarck, obviously, is not a juggler.

    Now, despite all that I'm saying, I did enjoy the film somewhat. I just couldn't get past its flaws the way everyone else seemed to. ** ?

    ...more info
  • A serious drama not afraid to deliver "popcorn movie" moments of excitement
    Involving, beautifully shot drama set in 1984 East Germany centers around Wiesler, a member of the secret police who routinely undertakes surveillance of outspoken artistic and political types. Played by the excellent Ulrich Muhe, Wiesler is initially a hardline socialist ideologue, but- through his constant eavesdropping- begins to sympathize with his subjects, to the point where he alters his reports to his superiors in order to protect them. Wiesler's change of heart is further helped along by the frequent corruption he witnesses among his colleagues, as they use their political power not to further the socialist cause but to advance their careers and even remove romantic rivals.

    Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck keeps things moving along and involving, and is thankfully not one of those directors who thinks he has to mirror the drab lives of Cold War-era Eastern Europe with drab visuals. Here the colors are deep, resonant, and quite beautiful, yet still somehow keeping with the melancholy nature of the film. I was pleased to see him mention this very aim- his desire to avoid the dull look of past films with a similar setting- during an interview in the DVD's special features section. But I shouldn't have been surprised, as good work doesn't happen by accident. I also liked that the engaging von Donnersmarck is quite unpretentious. He enthusiastically talks, for example, about how the Indiana Jones movies have a unique color palette to underscore their flavor and how he wanted to use their example to create his own color palette to underscore his own themes.

    "The Lives of Others" is the serious, worthy film I expected it to be. But I was surprised at how involving and entertaining it was on top of that. It certainly deserved all the attention it garnered a year or two back when it was making the rounds in this country. You can't go wrong spending an evening with this thoughtful, moving, and often exciting drama. ...more info
  • The Evil Of Communism and Related Ideals..Beautiful movie.
    What a Beautiful Movie.. I rented it first...and despite being long...is very much worth it. I love it, and it is so sad. ...more info
  • Redemption is always possible
    This is one of the best experiences I have had in a movie theatre, ever. It will change you, if you let it. How? Because it will show you how a man, a bad man, becomes a good man, a hero, without trying, just by turning toward that void inside each of us that knows, just knows, right from wrong. You will loathe the main character in Act I. By Act III, you will love him. Long after you have left the theatre, you will not be able to stop thinking about him. In the long run, you will never again be able to look at your neighbors in the same way. I used to treat everyone the same, as just another potential means to an end. Not now. I can't say I'm a better person. But only that everyone else seems to be. Maybe this film just reminded me that in a land filled with liars and thieves and fools, it's still better to be kind. ...more info
  • Nice foreign film
    The movie is a great foreign film. One of the top films to come out of Europe in years....more info
  • Intriguing!
    I have seen this movie 2 times and I am showing it to my English class and Global History class this week. Reading the subtitles makes it an excellent activity for those learning and reading in English. The Global History lesson about freedom is made more powerful with the conclusion of this film....more info
  • A gripping piece of history
    This is an intense, gripping film about how STASI, the East German Secret Police, observed and coerced its citizens. The performance of Ulrich Muhe, the STASI operative who gradually becomes sympathetic to the life of the writer he is charged with surveilling, is extraordinary. Much of the drama of the film is conveyed through his facial expression. The rest of the cast is equally superb. I do not speak German, but the English subtitles support the film nicely. This is a great movie, one that you can watch repeatedly and still find interesting....more info
  • Totally excellent
    This movie, with excellent and easy English subtitles, is elaborate and subtle but totally clear. It is about a Totalitarian government (The GDR or "East Germany" before Reagan forced the USSR to tear down the Berlin Wall) which wants to KNOW EVERYTHING about you, ostensibly to protect the Socialist State against its enemies. The "Stasi" or state police, like all puffed up self serving bureaucracies, love to develop and maintain "files" on everyone and they see in this activity great potential for career advancement. The Stasi are the vilest of bureaucrats using any method to turn people against each other and to develop "informants" who in turn betray their friends, leading to personal and professional ruination or imprisonment. The heroes battle this system and the plot turns on the inner transformation of one of the Stasi officials. Great Movie....more info
  • Easily one of the 10 best movies I've ever seen.
    When I finished watching this movie, I felt like it was one of the best movies I had ever seen. I was not surprised to find out later that a number of reviewers said the same thing. I happen to have had the experience of having met and corresponded with a couple of East Germans after a college trip there in 1988. I later found out that they had visted the Statsi headquarters and found out that there was a big file on us which included copies of all the letters we ever wrote. Who knows? A guy like the one portrayed in the film was probably opening my letters. In any case, this is one of those movies that just seems to get everything right. Now, almost 20 years after the wall fell, I'm glad to see a movie like this to help people remember what life in the eastern block was like in some respects. ...more info
  • A Rare Piece of Art
    This marvelous movie is about human emotions and sensibility. Despite the gray reality in which a member of the Stasi - the East German secret police - lives under the comunist regime in the mid eighties, we see how human beings can have their souls touched, even in the least expected moments. Ulrich Mhe presents us with an unforgetable performance....more info
  • Great film apart from lead actress and finale
    I thought the lead actress was terrible, almost sleep walking compared to the rest of the cast, which might have been because she was supposed to be on drugs, but she was certainly not the fascinating actress that everyone was supposed to adore.

    And the last part of the film-if they had just finished at the Berlin Wall falling, that would have been enough. The convoluted search for the truth in the end was a bit silly. Could he not have just told him when they were at the scene of the car accident that he had done it and to watch his back and who had betrayed him?

    Otherwise, super performances, very clever film....more info
  • FLORIAN HENCKEL VON DONNERSMARCK, OPUS 1
    ***** 2006. Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Academy award in the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year category and three European Film awards (Best film, Screenwriter and Actor). East Germany, 1984. A member of the Stasi spies on a small group of artists and secretly intervene in their lives. You can store this DVD in your library just next to your copy of Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. Masterpiece. ...more info
  • Beautifully done
    I almost turned this off 30 minutes in - I'm so glad I didn't give up! I wish I saw this when it was in the theater; it's a wonderfully made film and the end is incredibly moving. The acting is all first-rate. ...more info
  • "The Lives of Others" will touch your life
    This is the story of a good man.

    Every once in a long while a movie will comes along that a five star rating is just not good enough. This is one of those movies. Based on true environments you can immediately connect with the characters and the story. If you do not speak fluent German, it may take some time to get use to the subtitles, however soon you do not realize your are reading; for others you may notice that the subtitle may not quite match but are close enough that you just do not care. What you care for is what they are saying and doing.

    The date 1984. The place East Berlin. In an intolerable situation, people are committing suicide. A well know playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), after having a friend Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert )commit suicide, is compelled to tell the western world the truth about the situation. The Stasi (East German Spy system) suspects the playwright's motives, and keeps an eye on him. The person in charge of surveillance Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mhe) is also under surveillance gets involved with "The Lives of Others."

    The playwright smugly thinks he is not being watched. However, we know he is not only watching him but an unlikely guardian angel also helps him. This angle also learns about love and true friendship of which he is personally lacing in the intolerable world of the DDR.

    For people interested in Blu-ray many of the scenes were quite graphic. Not as much thee blood and guts scenes as people's faces and the face of the DDR. The filmmakers had to clean the graffiti off the buildings daily for the film. The film also shows actual locations.

    By the way, I heard the film commentary is in English
    ...more info
  • Compelling And Compulsive Viewing., 2 Sep 2007
    Plot:

    East Berlin, 1984. State Security begins surveillance on playwright and, on the surface at least, good socialist Georg Dreyman (Koch). But as the operation progresses, Stasi Captain Wiesler (Mhe) discovers compassion in his stony soul.

    My Review:

    In the early days of modern entertainment, cinema was a new and exciting method of being amused. In those days, German filmmakers were among the most pioneering, innovative and interesting, with classic silent features like Metropolis, Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. However, a lot has occurred between then and now and the country has undergone a long period of troubled history.

    This compelling, if not brilliant, masterpiece is European film-making at its finest and proof of an exciting renaissance in German cinema, proof that it has never lost its touch and sense of appeal. It's apparent why The Lives Of Others is this years Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. This piece focuses on the inevitable human tragedy at the heart of a paranoid political regime that treats everyone as a potential enemy. It contrasts the administrations success to the demising sight of a regime whose tight grip is in a chokehold around its own neck, forcing its best into exile or suicide. Where, a establishment thought it was venerating itself, has become obsessed and distrustful of its own members, it collapses on itself.

    In the starting days of East Germany's Ministry for State Security - 'Stasi'- had many hundreds of thousands members, who for the most part where more 'informants', ordinary members of the public were coerced into spying on their friends, family and neighbours; most through blackmail, public infringement or fear of disappearing into a forgotten cell. Alternatively, like many followers, love for the Communist system, but perhaps it's not happenstance that this story begins in the 1984.

    Our limelight focus is given to Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), who played the German officer in dir. Paul Verhoeven's Black Book, with flowing locks and open-necked shirts has a charismatic air that encompasses him. Koch's Dreyman is the ocular opposite of Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mhe), whose impassive attitude is the archetype of emotional repression. And a beautiful actress girlfriend (Martina Gedeck). The film inclusively revolves around the characters bearable outlook on each other, which are hopelessly intricate and bound together and yet they barely share a scene. Good example of this inability of tolerance is sitting in an empty attic, listening to bugging devices.

    We get a slowly building picture that sneaks into Wiesler's exterior, as his attitude to his subject moves from disapproval to envy to compassion, a man who has sacrificed his personal life and lost a large part of it, all in service of his country that he has tried so eloquently in protecting. An adhering of his homeland and what he has had to given up. It's a truly memorable performance.

    Verdict:

    A very personal story, set against an magnanimous backdrop of politics and power games. Enlightening. 9/10....more info
  • Haunting Look At What Life was Like Under Totalitarianism
    The degree to which the people of East Germany were monitored and spied upon by their Government is chillingly captured in this movie. Focusing on a Stasi agent who is being pressured to set up a playwrite by his superiors, the story is a compelling thriller but at the same time a remarkable peek into what life must have been like behind the iron curtain.
    Well written and acted this is a story that will stay with me for some time. A great film on a unique subject. ...more info