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July 16, 2007 | by  | in Film |
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The Lives of Others

This movie took out the 2007 Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars and is the first movie by this particular director. It is set in 1984 and follows Captain Wiesler, a member of the Stasi organisation in East Berlin. This infamous group of individuals were employed by the Ministry of State Security and monitored citizens who were known or suspected of being politically subversive. Basically they bugged their homes and kept them under constant watch until they discovered something that could have them arrested. Wiesler is given the assignment of watching a playwright and his girlfriend by a top official in the organisation.

He has their home wired and listens to and watches their interactions through a set of headphones and a small screen at Stasi headquarters. However, as events unfold, it is revealed that the reason behind the assignment is actually that the official wanted to sleep with the playwright’s girlfriend. Because of this, Wiesler becomes more emotionally involved in the lives of his targets and he begins to intentionally lie in his reports in order to keep them out of trouble. His refusal to comply with the principles of the regime lead to him getting fired and his career being destroyed.

Once again my disappointing knowledge of world history throws me off track but once I’d got my head around the whole regime and GDR thing, I realised that the story was actually rather remarkable. The first scene is amazing, but after that the pace can be a bit slow if you don’t get into it, which may be a put-off for some people. But the inter-cutting was done well, the subtitles didn’t go too fast, and what could have been a normal change-of-heart story turned out to be a complex portrayal of a crisis of conscience in a world built on fear and entrapment.

FLORIAN HENCKEL VON DONNERSMARCK

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