Das Leben der Anderen
Before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany's Secret Police Listened to Your Secrets
Running Time: 137 minutes
US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15
The Germans once again show that they are at the forefront of confronting a difficult recent past with the most impressive in a string of political dramas that have included Downfall, Good bye, Lenin! and the Baader Meinhof Complex.
The Lives of Others is set in the 1980s in East Berlin. The Wall separates the population of East Berlin from the Western world and the incredibly suspicious German Secret Police (STASI) are used to enforce the party line and ensure that no-one is conspires against the system. Conspiring includes trivial crimes such as reading Western material, associating with anyone who has been blacklisted by The Party and contacting anyone outside the East. Gerd Wiesler (Mühe) is one of the STASIs best and most loyal operatives and he is assigned to watch Georg Dreyman (Koch), a successful playwright and all-round popular guy, but a love rival to a high ranking Party official. His flat his bugged and every detail of his life with girlfriend Christa-Maria (Gedeck) is monitored. Gerd becomes touched by the life he is trying to destroy and he begins to question his own beliefs. Georg also starts to work against the system after suffering a personal tradegy.
Von Donnersmarcks film handles the two strands of political thriller and human drama brilliantly. The picture of a world in which every move is monitored is well recreated as are the precise methods of interrogation and surveillance. The film opens with Gerd performing a textbook interrogation and continues on with a world that is unquestionably 1980s East Berlin. Like the subject matter, everything is very bleak and claustrophobic giving the film a great atmosphere. This dark world of the STASI is well contrasted to the high life of the Party leaders and conformists who they support.
The aspect of human drama is also remarkably dealt with as we see how people can live in such a suspicious society. We see suicide, enforced informing and dissidence as ways in which people could cope in or opt-out of these times. The characters are well fleshed out and it is easy to sympathise with Georg and even Christa-Maria when she begins to inform on him. Even Gerd begins to win our sympathies as he transforms from hardline STASI man to rebel as he is touched by Georgs life.
It's Got: Claustrophobia, suspicion and drama
It Needs: To be seen to get a true understanding of East Germany under Socialism
DVD Extras Audio commentary, STASI gallery, deleted scenes, making of, cast and crew interviews DVD Extras Rating: 6/10
The Lives of Others takes a serious look at the suspicion and claustrophobia of the old East Germany with admirable authenticity and humanity.