Thinking Aloud: “The Lives of Others”

Aug. 29, 2014 by Darius 

If you’re looking for a good movie for the weekend, I would highly recommend the German film The Lives of Others.

The Lives of Others takes place in East Germany in 1984.  The country is under control of the Stasi, probably the most comprehensive state security apparatus in history (see https://notwhatyoumightthink.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/thinking-aloud-the-dark-secrets-of-a-surveillance-state/).  Gerd Wiesler is a captain in the Stasi, responsible for interrogating prisoners and conducting surveillance of suspected dissidents.  He is a true believer in the cause of socialism and the East German state, throwing himself into his work with all his being.  Captain Wiesler is tasked with investigating Georg Dreyman, a popular writer and playwright who appears to be “clean” politically.  When Wiesler learns that the assignment was not due to any evidence against Dreyman but because a top government minister wanted to make sexual advances on Dreyman’s actress girlfriend, he begins to doubt himself, his mission, and the entire East German system.

Two things set apart The Lives of Others as a film.  The first is the great attention to detail in the film; viewers are completely transported to 1980s East Germany.  There are a few historical inaccuracies to allow for the plot, but The Lives of Others is quite historically accurate in most regards, uncomfortably so for East Germans by some accounts.  The second aspect of The Lives of Others that stands out is the acting.  The lead actors play their roles marvelously, especially Captain Wiesler.  Unfortunately, Ulrich Mühe, who played Wiesler, died of stomach cancer in 2007, shortly after the film came out.

There are no car chases and few funny moments in The Lives of Others, but it is a very engrossing movie.  Definitely worth two hours and 15 minutes of your weekend.

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