A retired legal counselor writes a novel hoping to find closure for one of his past unresolved homicide cases and for his unreciprocated love with his superior - both of which still haunt him decades later.
Juan José Campanella
In the early 1980s, Georg Dreyman (a successful dramatist) and his longtime companion Christa-Maria Sieland (a popular actress), were huge intellectual stars in (former) East Germany, although they secretly don't always toe the party line. One day, the Minister of Culture becomes interested in Christa, so the secret service agent Wiesler is instructed to observe and sound out the couple, but their life fascinates him more and more. Written by
All the listening/recording props used in the film are actual Stasi equipment on loan from museums and collectors. The props master had himself spent two years in a Stasi prison and insisted upon absolute authenticity down to the machine used at the end of the film to steam-open up to 600 letters per hour. See more »
Christa-Maria and Georg's apartment is in Wedekind street in Friedrichshain, as confirmed in the DVD commentary. The buildings in the entire quarter surrounding Wedekindstr were part of a massive rebuilding project in the GDR, and were completed in the early 1950s. All of the balconies that can be seen while Georg is playing football with the children on the street, along with the ceramic work illustrate the particular Soviet style really clearly. However, the interior of the apartment and most of what we see of the building interior is what would be called 'alt bau', effectively 'old style' - the apartment has high ceilings, the stairwells have carved wooden balustrades and doors which clearly predate the 50s. When the Stasi men come through the front doors for the first time, you can see the interior of these buildings as they really look, in the next shot the style has gone back at least 40 years. See more »
Stand still. Eyes to the floor.
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After seeing the outstanding Pan's Labyrinth, I could not understand how anything could beat it to the Oscar for Best Film, let alone the accolade of Best Foreign Film. That was until I saw The Lives of Others.
Putting it simply, this is the best film released in years. The framework of the story surrounds a Stasi officer who is assigned to monitor a writer and his actress girlfriend considered loyal to East German regime. That is all I am prepared to reveal because this film operates on so many levels that I wouldn't know where to begin. On the surface this can be enjoyed as a taut drama but essentially it is a study of the human condition and the capacity for compassion and humanity exists in even the most inhumane people. All of this is shot against the backdrop of the greys and browns of communist East Germany.
As a film it is virtually flawless. The three central performances are nothing short of electric, with particularly Ulrich Muhe giving one of the greatest leading man performances since Al Pacino in The Godfather. None of this would be possible without a brilliant script and exemplary direction, that brings the characters to life extracting the best out of the actors. The result is no words are wasted, and every scene is relevant and expertly conceived. This manages to explore deep issues without being turgid, is moving without being draining and remains gripping and entertaining without being superficial.
In summary, this is film-making at its finest. It is the sort of movie that you'll go down on bended knee and pay homage to the inventor of cinema, because it is films like this that cinema was created for. You'll forgive a year of tedious sequels and cash cows, for the one day that films like this get released.
10 out of 10 is too modest.
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