Monday, September 03, 2007

The Lives of Others: Grade A

The Lives of Others (2006)

Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. German, Subtitled.

Five years before the fall of the Wall, the GDR Stasi spies on its citizens. A prominent playwright (Koch) and his star actress (Gedeck) are targeted by the police for surveillance. The apartment is bugged and the captain in charge of listening (Muhe) waits for incriminating talk. There is none. But he learns that the reason for the surveillance on the playwright is that a fatcat higher-up government minister lusts for the actress, not because of any threat to state security. The movie describes the character transformation of the captain as he slowly comes to sympathize with his prey. It is a tremendous story once you accept that he is capable of that radical change so quickly. It’s not psychologically believable, but every great story hinges on a lie, and that is a relatively small one. Excellent directing, costumes and sets. A DVD extra explains why night scenes are shot through a yellow, instead of a traditional blue filter (it looks a lot better, too). The music is wonderful, the acting thoroughly compelling and the historical theme relevant to modern Germany, and by analogy, modern America.

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