The Lives of Others Review – Marvelous

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.

Constant Surveillance

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.

Communist Disaster

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. enthusiastically recommends The Lives of Others to all lovers of good cinema.

The movie is available on DVD at Netflix.

2 Responses to "The Lives of Others Review – Marvelous"

  1. vedagiris   June 27, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    In my opinion, erstwhile Soviet and present China are never Communist Nations. They are simply State Capitalist Nations who fool world in name of Communist.

    Cuba and Venezuela must be half Communist nations. No parties of nations across world, can follow Communism proposed by Marx, because it requires a lot of Patience and Sacrifice among Human Society to evolve.

    Communism has been always degraded by Politicians who preach it for their own machinations. So, People gradually lost interest in it and was on its way out. Responds:

    1. Communism, as espoused by Marx, is impractical given human nature.

    In my not so humble opinion, the concept of withering away of the state makes no sense.

    2. With any new form of government or ideology, one set of Power Elites is replaced by another who are as bad as, and often worse than, the previous rotten scum.

    For instance, Stalin and his cohorts were infinitely more barbarous and thuggish than the Czar they replaced.

    Mao was worse than Chiang Kai-shek. Mao’s famines and Cultural Revolution killed millions.

    Man is irredeemable.

  2. boopalanj   July 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    I will try to watch this movie. But getting these in India seems a little-hard task. Ordering from Ebay or Amazon comes up with an added shipment cost. 🙁

    Same was with the case of “A Simple Life”. After reading your review, I’m trying to get that film for more than two months, but I’m unable to.

    What are the other movies you watched lately? Responds:

    1. Lives of Others is on YouTube…Unfortunately without subtitles!

    2. You write: What are the other movies you watched lately?

    I + We watched a nice BBC political satire In the Loop on Saturday on Hulu Plus (U.S. subscription site)!

    Hilarious! It’s about U.S.and UK starting war against another country (Iraq??) on false pretenses!

    3. On Friday, I + We watched Le Samouraï.

    People say Le Samouraï is a cult classic.

    Am not sure about the ‘classic’ part. But it was a good movie!

    A rare 100% Rating on RT –

You must be logged in to post a comment Login