Monday, August 1, 2011


Movies are meant to be entertaining. We watch them, enjoy them and in course of time we forget about them. But there are some movies that leave us gasping for air. They suffocate us, make us cringe and leave us wasted. But they stay green in our memory for a long time. They do so because they tell us things that we hate to hear and show us visuals we would rather not see. And in my opinion, those are the movies you should not miss!

"The Lives of Others," set in East Germany not long before the fall of the Berlin Wall is one such spectacular tale and a piece of complicated art. Writer Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck elegantly penetrates the Berlin wall before it actually came down and lays bare the brutal absurdity of the GDR and its cruel psychology of socialism which created a society poisoned by secrecy, fear and abuse of power.

Here is some history to give you some perspective. Post World War, Germany was divided in two and shared amongst the victors. France, Britain and USA got the western half and Russia got the eastern half. Towns, cities and countryside that were once ruled by Socialist Germany, were now ruled by Communist Russia. Democratic Republic of Germany (GDR) was a brutal totalitarian state run by a government that spied on all its citizens and demanded that the citizens also spy on each other.

“The Lives of Others” is a riveting tale of two good men at that time and how watching one’s life changes the other. There is a poetic symmetry between the 2 protagonists: Renowned playwriter Georg Dreyman whose writing creates new lives on screen and Stasi police investigator Capt. Gerd Wielser whose writing has to secretly capture the life of Dreyman in order to help a minister’s own cause.

The standout feature of the film is the characterization of Gerd Wiesler. The transformation that he undergoes is tremendously complicated yet simply elegant. He starts out as a firm believer in the Republic’s ideals and looks at every man with a pair of binoculars, sometimes literally. The scene in the elevator with a small boy who says that his father believes that Stasi are bad people is a subtle genius. You can feel the awkwardness in the air when he ends up asking the name of the boy’s "foot ball" unable to hide his “Stasi”ness! How much does it take to change your faith? Watching the life of Georg Dreyman and his girlfriend actress Christa Maria Sieland, he is forced to confront his own beliefs and question the very ideals he has so vehemently observed for his whole life. The director exquisitely illuminates Gerd Wiesler’s moral no man’s land! It is the sheer vulnerability of the characters that makes the movie so compellingly unpredictable.

The film is generously sprinkled with such brilliant scenes. If the scene where Maria comes home disgusted after having sex unwillingly with the minister and asks Dreyman to just hold her is touching, then you will find the scene where Dreyman plays a piano to mourn the death of his best friend and wonders how someone who hears such music could be a bad person to be poetic.  But beyond all that, the film just poses a very simple question: What could a good man do other than being good? I am sure the movie might give you a sleepless night, but I would recommend you give it a try!


  1. havent watched this movie. but your writing makes me want to watch it. world war politics has always fascinated me. good post

  2. again read this after a 6 month gap !!

    and now, having read Pather Panchali, i do get an idea of the kind of movies that move you and the way you respond to that experience in words is commendable

    1. Thank you so much for reading it again. You are awesome.:)

      Yeah.. I do watch a lot of movies but only when such a movie comes along and moves me, I feel that I should write about it. This movie as Pather, will leave you in a trance and it will take a couple of days to shake off the effect it has had on your mind.


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