The Lives of Others DVD
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Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Produced in 2006
Main Language - German with English subtitles
It isn't often the Motion Picture committee selects a great or even distinguished film for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' award but earlier this year they themselves proud when, against expectations, they plumped for Florian Von Donnersmarck's remarkable debut 'The Lives of Others'.
The Lives of Others has been one of the most talked about European movies of the last year. Most comments have focussed on the assured handling of the picture set in pre-unification East Germany, a notable feat for a first-time director. Others, of whom Anna Funder is perhaps the most prominent, have baulked at the film's basic premise which involves a loyal and committed Stasi captain suffer a crisis of conscience when he is asked by his superior to spy on a talented young theatre director. The conscience is compromised by the fact that the commanding officer has personal and rather selfish reasons for wanting to destroy the life of the artist, namely the artist's wife.
Funder, author of acclaimed novel 'Stasiland'argues that this simply could not have happened during the Stasi's years of control over internal state security matters and who are we to argue. She, after all, had bitter, first-hand experience of the Stasi's ruthlessness in dealing with dissent, both real and imagined.
Whilst one can accept the cavils of Funder and others as carrying a good deal of authoritative weight, we should not lose sight of the fact that The Lives of Others is, first and foremost, a thriller; one that is sharp, intelligent and often coolly obsevered. Its strength lay in its ability to draw the audience in completely into a strange world where paranoia is part of the daily routine and state repression is a wholly and bizarrely bureaucratised as though it were a Pension's Department.
Von Donnersmarck's film illustrates superbly that the German Democratic Republic of the 1980's was a place where, more often than not, a person's life would be ruined with a one-page typed letter and a rubber stamp. The physical violence of other oppressive regimes is hardly present in this movie for as Von Donnersmarck persuasively suggests, the DDR exerted control by creating an atmosphere quiet menace and denuding its citizens of confidence. Capturing this atmosphere of psychological oppression is no easy business but Von Donnersmarck pulls it off with commendable aplomb.
The Lives of Others proves thinking cinema is still alive.
This superb Oscar-winning film from a first time director has proved to be a massive international hit.
A gripping psychological thriller, The Lives of Others gives us a fascinating insight into the lengths and depths that the East German government went to in order to keep tabs on the lives of its population. When the cold and officious Stasi operative Wiesler is given the task of spying on acclaimed playwright Dreyman and his actress girlfriend he relishes the task, knowing that if he uncovers subversive behaviour he will gain favour with his boss. But the longer he listens in on the couple, their friendships, passions and ideas, the more he realises what he, and the harsh political regime he follows, are lacking. Slowly he begins to doubt the morality of his job and politics.
As the lines between duty and compassion become blurred, Wiesler becomes more involved with his subject, walking a dangerous path between his duty and his new found reality.
Length: 137 mins
Aspect ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic Wide Screen
Cat No: LGD93901
Format: DVD Colour
- Making of
- Interviews with Cast and Crew
- Audio Commentary by Writer / Director
- Deleted Scenes
- Extended Scenes
- Original Stasi spying instruments photo gallery.
by Mike McCahill on 17th August 2007
The Lives of Others works foremost as a powerful and involving thriller, enormously relevant to an age where surveillance is omnipresent, and where individual libertie... Read on
The Lives of Others works foremost as a powerful and involving thriller, enormously relevant to an age where surveillance is omnipresent, and where individual liberties can no longer be taken for granted.
Stasi-controlled East Germany is chillingly brought to life in von Donnersmarck's Oscar-winning debut film, in which Captain Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is assigned to monitor the activity of celebrated playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch, the 'good Nazi' in Black Book) and his actress lover Christa-Maria Sieland, at the behest of a corrupt government minister who has designs on the latter.
Mühe's superbly calibrated performance – one of the actor's last before his death in July – reveals his character's emotional journey as Wiesler becomes entranced and transformed by the couple's relationship and the ideals they come to represent.
The couple's everyday lives and intimacies are viewed through a combination of binoculars, rear-view mirrors and electronic bugging equipment. Brilliantly filmed, The Lives of Others offers further proof – alongside The Conversation and Red Road – of how good cinema is at portraying the act of surveillance.
Von Donnersmarck is careful to depict the details of the regime: the Stasi's preferred interrogation methods; prostitutes who adhere to strict schedules in the interests of greater efficiency; the way informers were shuttled about in fishmongers' vans, like fresh bait - or just as so much small fry.
The film's narrative vividly depicts the trickledown effect of state-sanctioned oppression: how loved ones and neighbours were recruited to tell tales, or forced to look on in silent complicity. Iron fists need all their fingers – even the little ones – to be in alignment to exert their grip.
Heart-wrenching and utterly engrossing, The Lives of Others is insightful on a human as well as on political level; this breakthrough world cinema hit is fully deserving of all its success. Hide
by Anon on 8th July 2007
Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the The Lives of Others is a haunting look at the paranoia of the East German security apparatus in the year 1984, a paranoi... Read on
Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the The Lives of Others is a haunting look at the paranoia of the East German security apparatus in the year 1984, a paranoia that ended only with the dismantling of the Berlin Wall in November, 1989 and the eventual reunification of East and West. Written and directed by 33-year old Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck who grew up in West Berlin, the film shows the Stasi using intimidation and disorientation as tools in operating a ruthless system of control and surveillance directed at artists and intellectuals suspected of opposing the GDR.
Set in East Berlin five years before glasnost, the film captures the grey atmosphere of an authoritarian state showing its drably furnished apartments, bare offices, and empty streets. As the film begins, Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muehe) uses videotape to educate recruits about Stasi interrogation methods. Later, Wielser expresses suspicion about the true loyalties of playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his girlfriend, the popular stage actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck).
Wiesler has Dreyman's apartment wired from top to bottom. As Wiesler sits in his dark office plugged into his headsets and tape recorder, he observes Dreyman and Christa going about their lives and it is not a comfortable experience for him. The gradual exposure of the expressionless bureaucrat to a different way of life that includes music, literature, and freedom of expression leads him to look at his life in a new way, a way that makes clear the arrogance of his superiors. It is the catalyst for a surprising plot that has numerous twists and turns and ends up as a powerful depiction of what it means to be human.
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