Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Das Leben der Anderen aka The Lives of Others (2006)

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film is sheer brilliant storytelling. Hollywood just to be the best storyteller, but it appears they have lost their touch (don’t worry, I still love Hollywood). Today, as my own little homage to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall built by the German Democratic Republic, I decided to finally check out The Lives of Others. It was on my to do list for quite some time but I just didn’t find the opportunity to see it. I should’ve listened to my friend Violeta and dropped whatever I was doing and watch it. I finally watched it, and thank God I did, since it is one of the best films in the past decade.

I love movies and yet they rarely move me. Some people watch a movie and they live the movie. I envy them so much because I’m always aware it is a movie and I can’t find myself submerging into the story as they do. In the case of The Lives of Others, I was submerged in the story from the get-go.

I knew the basic premise of the story and I also had an idea of what to expect, but the movie was so much more than that. The photography is deceptively sober. The director decided to mask the gorgeous photography in favor of not overshadowing a character-driven piece. Even though it might not be an epic story as Schindler’s List, this one is rooted in the characters and their relationships. Ulrich Mühe shines in the role of Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, a secret police agent conducting surveillance on Georg Dreyman, (Sebastian Koch, who was also good in Verhoeven’s Zwartboek aka Black Book) a playwright and his girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck).

What starts as another job for agent Wiesler slowly turns into admiration for Dreyman, and slowly Wiesler is living vicariously through Dreyman. Dreyman gives Wiesler an opportunity to live a life he never had. Through Wiesler’s journey we share into his voyeuristic mission and we learn Dreyman is a good man, who although not happy with the regime, is not conspiring against it. He probably would have not taken any action against it had it not been for Wiesler’s intervention.

A man of principles is good, but is only as good as his principles. Wiesler “lived” his principles more than anyone in the regime, but Dreyman’s life that some things don’t fit within his principles. We feel sorry for Wiesler; he just wants a connection with someone. Unable to find that connection he becomes Dreyman’s best friend even though they will never talk to each other.

The Lives of Others is one of the best films in the last decade, how can you make it better by remaking it?

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