A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.
Thomas Bo Larsen,
Gerd Wiesler is an officer with the Stasi, the East German secret police. The film begins in 1984 when Wiesler attends a play written by Georg Dreyman, who is considered by many to be the ultimate example of the loyal citizen. Wiesler has a gut feeling that Dreyman can't be as ideal as he seems, and believes surveillance is called for. The Minister of Culture agrees but only later does Wiesler learn that the Minister sees Dreyman as a rival and lusts after his partner Christa-Maria. The more time he spends listening in on them, the more he comes to care about them. The once rigid Stasi officer begins to intervene in their lives, in a positive way, protecting them whenever possible. Eventually, Wiesler's activities catch up to him and while there is no proof of wrongdoing, he finds himself in menial jobs - until the unbelievable happens.Written by
Although it was very common for national flags and coats of arms of the former GDR to be placed almost anywhere in public places and institutions, not a single one was shown throughout the whole movie (except for one artistic representation of the CoA, with the hanging rope over it, on the cover of Der Spiegel magazine). See more »
When Dreyman is playing the sonata that Jerska gave him, he looks only at his fingers, and never at the music that's on the stand, even though he's playing it for the first time. See more »
Stand still. Eyes to the floor.
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The US version features a written prologue in English, explaining the historical context of the film. See more »
"Who knows the secrets of the human heart?" Col in The Crying Game
WhenI saw 2006's Oscar winning Departed, I was satisfied it could be the best picture of the year; then I saw Pan's Labyrinth and thought it imaginatively superior; then I saw Lives of Others, the Oscar choice for best foreign film, and I knew it was the globe's best film of the year, no argument.
Lives of Others is what all movie making should strive to be: interesting characters, thrilling plot, superb acting, and thematic weight. It's set in East Berlin, 1984, five years before the Wall's fall and Gorbachev's "glasnost" and still felling the tremors of Nazism, in this case the Stasi, a government agency similar to the SS. Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muehe), a Stasi teacher and coldly efficient information gatherer, surreptitiously watches playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his actress girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) to get compromising details that would damn Dreyman and open the romantic way for the culture minister, Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme). Oddly for an artist, Dreyman is loyal to socialism, so it is through Sieland that the information must come.
The dramatic hub of this absorbing intrigue is the growing affection Wiesler gains for the actress and coincidentally the underground freedom movement, mostly as it is represented by artists and their friends. While his efficiency is amply evident in his cool detachment, similar to that of Rafe Fiennes in Schindler's List and Serg Lopez in Pan's Labyrinth, his humanity seeps out at the edges as he becomes vicariously involved in the artists' lives. First-time director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck misses not a beat in slowly revealing the hearts of all his principals while he creates a plot remarkably interesting for a character-driven piece.
Few films could mine the rich conflict between the totalitarian state and artists who yearn for freedom of expression, between the loyalties of friends and lovers and the crushing exigency of survival. Lives of Others shows how difficult it is to watch others' lives unfold and not be drawn to their passion. It's rough out there: No other film of 2006 showed that cliché better. Here's looking at you, best film of the year.
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