LIVES OF OTHERS, THE: DVD
In 1984 the German Democratic Republic (GDR) maintains power via the ubiquitous surveillance operated by the Stasi, the State Secret Police, and their vast network of informers. Their goal is to know everything about the lives of its citizens. Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe) is assigned by his boss Grubitz (Ulrich Tuker) to set up surveillance of famous playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), who lives with celebrity actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck). Dreyman is one of the few writers the Stasi generally trusts not to be subversive, but no-one can be trusted. As the surveillance progresses, both Wiesler and the artists he spies on are influenced by the system's morally untenable sensibilities.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's nothing subtle or restrained about the themes of The Lives Of Others, as it explores oppression and personal liberty under the Secret Police in 80s East Germany. Yet this heart-jolting film from first time writer/director Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck, is told with sublime subtlety. The politics are complex, but never as complex as the resulting human drama, when fear and betrayal are pitted against goodness and enlightenment. The expression 'the walls have ears' might have originated from these times, when apartments were bugged and lives were squashed in the process.
The story about the unexpected humanisation of Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe), a robotic servant of the state, is both devastating and beautiful. Wiesler is as buttoned up as the grey fitted jacket of his uniform, as he eavesdrops and records every intimate detail in the life of urbane, respected playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). So jaded is Wiesler's view of life, that he is intent to find evidence of Dreyman's subversiveness, and in doing so, score points with his superiors. In particular Culture Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme), who has manipulated Dreyman's talented actress girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) into a sexual relationship. We hear that writers are engineers of the soul (a quote attributed to Stalin), and as Wiesler listens in to the writer's life, we watch his expressionless face imagining the pictures that accompany the dialogue he hears through headphones. 'They unwrap presents, then presumably have intercourse,' he types matter-of-factly into his concise report.
Muhe's performance is outstanding, as he transforms from a shell of a man leading an empty existence to a human being deeply involved in the couples' lives. The pivotal moment for Wiesler comes when he hears Dreyman playing Bach's achingly beautiful 'Sonata for a Good Man' on the piano. 'Can anyone who has truly heard this, be a bad person,' he hears Dreyman ask. As his admiration for Dreyman grows in line with his infatuation with Sieland (both are perfectly cast), the observer becomes a participant, in a remarkable turnaround.
Every detail is beautifully captured - the claustrophobic mood, the undercurrent of terror, and the symbolic red ribbon of the hidden typewriter with which Dreyman writes his subversive cover article for the West's Spiegel Magazine. The final reel lunges at the heart and brings not only surprises, but a closing scene that reverberates as one of the most succinctly perfect and profoundly moving. Twisting perspectives on lives, actions and consequences, this magnificent film satisfies on every level.
DVD special features include an audio commentary, behind the scenes documentary plus deleted scenes with commentary.
Published August 23, 2007
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LIVES OF OTHERS, THE: DVD (MA)
Leben der Anderen, Das
CAST: Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Thieme, Hans-Uwe Bauer, Matthias Brenner
PRODUCER: Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann
DIRECTOR: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
SCRIPT: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hagen Bogdanski
EDITOR: Patricia Rommel
MUSIC: Gabriel Yared
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Silke Buhr
RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 29, 2007
SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature Audio Commentary; The Making of The Lives of Others; Deleted Scenes with Audio Commentary
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
DVD RELEASE: August 23, 2007