Indian movie-makers are turning me off the medium of films with their insane Idée fixe on love.
Hindi, Tamil or Telugu, most Indian movies have this unyielding, tiresome obsession with love. I’m sick and tired of watching yet another love story.
So I was delighted to stumble upon The Lives of Others (2006), a remarkable German film that takes a peek at an unsavory period in human history.
Made on a modest budget of $2 million, The Lives of Others is proof that a good movie does not require a budget of a gazillion dollars.
Set in Communist-ruled East Germany in the early 1980s, several years before the Wall separating the two Germanys fell, The Lives of Others is a fine glimpse into life under the ever-watchful eyes of the dreaded secret police Stasi.
A curse on East Germans for nearly four decades, the Stasi was omnipresent and employed over 100,000 spies and another 800,000 informants to constantly monitor the activities of the people.
Of course, some will draw a parallel with present-day America where the NSA, NYPD, FBI and other government agencies constantly snoop on Americans through electronic and other means at the behest of their political and corporate masters.
But the Stasi was a different kind of beast in the scope and nature of its spying. Often neighbors, workers and family members were recruited to spy on people close to them.
The Stasi even had its own prisons.
Within the overarching Stasi framework, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck weaves the story of a Stasi agent monitoring the life of a well-known writer and his actress girlfriend.
Despite the inclination of many naive writers and believers to portray Communism as an utopian, non-exploitative, incorruptible ideology, the reality was anything but.
More suffering and deaths occurred under Communist regimes than under any other form of government.
Even owning a foreign typewriter was a serious offense in these regimes.
In the Lives of Others, we witness gross abuse of power when the Minister of Culture orders surveillance on the writer not because of any suspected illegal activity but merely because the politician lusts for the writer’s girlfriend.
The central figure or hero, if you can call him that, is Stasi agent Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe).
Bearing a stern visage and unsmiling deportment, Wiesler is a dedicated, hardcore Stasi agent who’ll stop at nothing to unearth enemies of the state.
So how does Wiesler handle the spying on the writer Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch)?
Is it sordid business as usual?
Well penned by von Donnersmarck, the story is fraught with love, corruption, lust, naivete, betrayal, bravery, heart-breaking tragedy and ultimately redemption in the form of an extraordinary move from someone you least expect to engage in such a move.
The performances are solid and the movie is highly engaging.
To say I enjoyed The Lives of Others would be an understatement!
When it comes to awards, it’s been an embarras de richesses for The Lives of Others.
This gem of a film picked up dozens of awards including Best Foreign Film at the 79th Oscars ceremony.
SearchIndia.com enthusiastically recommends The Lives of Others to all lovers of good cinema.
The movie is available on DVD at Netflix.