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The Lives of Others
Year:
2006
Country:
Germany
Genre:
Drama, Thriller
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Martina Gedeck as Christa-Maria Sieland
Ulrich Mühe as Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler
Sebastian Koch as Georg Dreyman
Ulrich Tukur as Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz
Thomas Thieme as Minister Bruno Hempf
Hans-Uwe Bauer as Paul Hauser
Volkmar Kleinert as Albert Jerska
Matthias Brenner as Karl Wallner
Herbert Knaup as Gregor Hessenstein
Bastian Trost as Häftling 227
Marie Gruber as Frau Meineke
Volker Michalowski as Schriftexperte (as Zack Volker Michalowski)
Werner Daehn as Einsatzleiter in Uniform
Storyline: In the early 1980s, Georg Dreyman (a successful dramatist) and his longtime companion Christa-Maria Sieland (a popular actress), were huge intellectual stars in (former) East Germany, although they secretly don't always toe the party line. One day, the Minister of Culture becomes interested in Christa, so the secret service agent Wiesler is instructed to observe and sound out the couple, but their life fascinates him more and more.
Type Resolution File Size Codec Bitrate Format
HQ DVD-rip 720x432 px 1853 Mb 1963 Kbps mp4 Download
iPhone 640x270 px 1539 Mb h264 1562 Kbps mp4 Download
Reviews
Intelligent and moving dealing with GDR history
East Berlin, November 1984. Five years before its downfall the GDR seeks to maintain its power with the help of a merciless system of control and observation. When Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz puts loyal Stasi-Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler on to the famous writer Georg Dreymann and his girlfriend Christa Maria Sieland who is a famous actress herself, he expects career advancement for himself. For most important politicians are responsible for this "operative act".

What Wiesler did not expect: the intimate view on the world of the ones he's observing changes the snitch as well. Looking at "the life of the others" makes him aware of the beggarliness in his own life and enables access to a so far unknown world of love, free thinking and speaking he is hardly able to elude. But the system can't be stopped anymore and a dangerous game, which destroys the love of Christa Maria Sieland and Georg Dreymann and Wieslers present existence begins.

Until the fall of the wall each of them has paid a big price. After that a whole new world begins.

My personal opinion - though it doesn't count that much - is that this one a an absolute Must See. I can hardly remember such an intelligent and moving German movie especially not including the whole topic of GDR history and the dealing with it. I think this is the first German movie which shows this system as it used to be (which has been confirmed by several contemporary witnesses) and not turns it and its people into comedy though there have been several good ones, of course.
2006-03-24
One of the Top Films of the Decade in My Book
I watched this movie again after reading Anna Funder's book, Stasiland, about life in East Germany under the paranoid psychopaths of the state security police. The film is a masterpiece of tragedy and hope and the triumph of good.

One of the most moving scenes in this and in any movie is when he discovers that his copy of Brecht is missing which, of course, has been nicked by his nemesis/deus ex machina in the Stasi. We cut to him reading it at home. "Can anyone who has heard this music, I mean truly heard it, really be a bad person?" From what I have read about the Stasi I doubt that anyone would have talked freely on a telephone line in this era but I could see how the writer, after years of keeping within the party lines, would think that his home was not under surveillance.

"To think that people like you once ruled a country." I had the same thoughts during the Bush/Cheney years in America.
2014-08-27
A Slow Burner
About half-an-hour into the movie I thought I was in for a bit of a rough ride, you know... that force-yourself-to-the-end type of film. Fortunately, the movie got better and more intriguing as it progressed, turning out to be a very rewarding piece of entertainment.

Luckily, I managed to bypass my initial negative preconceptions, such as the German language, having subtitles and no recognisable actors, deciding to give the film a go based on my very positive experiences of foreign language films this year, in the place of the usual insult to your intelligence, spoon-fed Hollywood fodder.

It's a rewarding film that requires a certain amount of perseverance at the start. It's educational, thought provoking, visually intriguing but not beautiful, almost beleaguering your senses with the grimy weather, the drab clothes worn by practically all, the use of greys and browns for furnishings, the austere colour palette, the depressing standard of the cars and vans, and virtually nothing joyous or warm to look at. We're instead reliant on our involvement with the characters and their insights and motives for doing what they do.

A film that seems to adapt and improvise as it goes along, the characters feeling their way through events as well, entering uncharted waters and discovering the need to swim. Yet again, film that establishes the value of historical diversity that Germany has to offer from the 20th century. Only, the language/subtitle thing may put a few people off from the start, which is a shame if you're young and looking for action-satisfaction.
2013-12-22
Beautifully restrained study of moral complexity and totalitarianism
The Lives of Others/Das Leben der Anderen—the title of this striking German film points to the vicariousness of a world dominated by suspicion and surveillance. In East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down the STASI, the state police, wanted to watch everyone. In 1984 a file is opened and STASI men are set to work watching a man and a woman who are above reproach. In the paranoid world of the eastern zone, innocence itself, as in Kafka, is suspicious. In charge of the case, code name "Laszlo," is a certain Weisler (Ulrich Mühe). And those thoroughly bugged and listened to day and night are Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), a noted playwright, friend of the Chancellor, politically correct in the eyes of the regime, and his beloved girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), a famous actress. Behind this particular project are political higher-ups, sly and manipulative, jealous of each other's positions, kingpins of a system that in a few years will toss them out. This is a paranoid 1984 not far from the one Orwell imagined. When Weisler's men bug Dreyman's flat, the lady across the hall sees them. Weisler tells her if she speaks a word to anybody, her daughter will be thrown out of the university. One of the officials wants Christa-Maria. Now that she is vulnerable, on the examination table, so to speak, he can move in on her. It's only a matter of time before somebody will be begging for mercy.

Weisler is a rigid mole, but he has sensitive eyes. Like the Wall itself, his vision will crumble and we will see it happen. Weisler is a teacher in the police school, but Dreyman's life becomes his teacher. Dreyman is tall and glamorous. He sheds his middle class origins by never wearing a tie. He makes love to a beautiful woman who Weisler later declares to be a great artist. Weisler has to make do with flabby prostitutes on a tight schedule. Dreyman introduces Weisler to the humanizing value of music and poetry; he listens to a certain sonata, and he begins to read Brecht.

Weisler and Dreyman are both flawed heroes. The bad men are Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), Weisler's threatening supervisor, and the loathsome "Culture" minister with police powers Bruno Hempf (Thomas Tieme).

The question may arise in our minds: if Dreyman's so above reproach to the East Germans, how shall we admire him? But this film deals in nuances, moral ambiguities through which despair can turn to hope. The sonata was given to Dreyman for his birthday by a blacklisted friend and mentor, Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleimert), and Jerska's suicide leads the playwright to risk smuggling facts and an impassioned protest to the West. Dreyman does become admirable to us. But so does Weisler, the STASI agent, because by this time he wants to protect the objects of his surveillance, and to protect them he arranges to be the only man on the case. Dreyman evades exposure through Weisler's silent help. But there are casualties. Christa-Maris is catnip to the fat cats, and she's caught in the middle. Weisler covers his tracks, but his superior knows he's done something, and Weisler's sent to steam open letters in a cellar for the rest of his career. It's there that we see him get the extraordinary news four years later that the Wall is coming down.

The Lives of Others is free from the melodrama of pursuit and torture, but it knows the terror of the sudden house search, the second knock upon the door; of extortion, humiliation, and betrayal; the soul death of the creative person silenced, the calculated draining away of the will to act. It's a movie of dignity and hope too, though it speaks of long gray subterranean exile. The music Jerska gave Dreyman is called The Sonata of a Good Man. A chance remark by one of the fallen officials years later leads Dreyman to track down the facts (accessible now) and to write about them. When Weisler speaks the film's final lines, "It's for me," they're among the most resonant in recent years. The Lives of Others is a little long in places – it threatens sometimes to morph into a mini-series – but its restraint and quietude make for an impressive cumulative effect, a sense of the prevailing grayness and rage totalitarianism generates. It's specific to the place and time, but gracefully universal, and it reveals the tall German with the aristocratic name, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, to be a world-class director.
2007-02-10
Profound tale of morality.
This is an absolutely fantastic film, with a very suitable soundtrack and great performances from the whole cast, which performs perfectly.

Little things, like facial expressions, reactions, etc. are so important on the big screen, and are so difficult to get right. It says a lot for the talent on set that this film was an absolute joy to watch, especially as all these 'little things' were executed to perfection. As Wiesler grows to love his subjects, it is, of course, a gradual change, and Ulrich Muehe, with the help of a tender and fantastic script, pulls his character off so convincingly.

What is very interesting about this film is the way in which it portrays West Germany. Von Donnersmarck has not directed a love-letter to the West; he portrays its faults just as he portrays those of the East, and of the Ministerium fuer Staatssicherheit (Stasi), and there are some very thought-provoking issues and ideas within the film.

Ultimately, whether the right thing is done or not, a transformation occurs within the film, one for a more fulfilling existence. I'll leave you to decide whether or not it is for the better, but I truly believe that this film is an enriching experience for all who watch it. You really get the sense that the actors cared for the themes and issues that the film raised, and this can only ever make a film better.

The film is not without tension, which is expertly tackled by fast editing and music, and not without sadness, loss, and pain. Characters are more deeply explored than you first realize, and, often, they are not so different. They are, after all, all socialists.

Not often does one come across a classic film, one with just the right amount of classiness, messages, and imagery, amongst other things, and it is a genuine pleasure when one falls into your lap. Watch this film. I promise that you will not be disappointed.
2011-11-29
A German Expat Feels his first pang of forlorn German patriotism
This film utterly blew me away. Full disclosure: I'm a German born (Munich born) German-American who left Germany in 1986, before the wall came down. I cannot describe the feeling I felt as the last few words were spoken on the screen. I could not look at the subtitles ( a habit of speaking two languages ) because my eyes were so full of tears. I cannot tell you how I was so sorry I did not experience the wall coming down. This film healed a wound that may have been left by the nightmare years of 1938-1945, my own great uncle being a Nazi war criminal, convicted in Nuremberg in 1946. Yes, we are mensch too. We have the potential for greatness (of character) in spite of our history. Thank you Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, for giving me back half of my lost soul in this single "es ist für mich". I am reminded again that the difference between ourselves and beasts is that we have a choice.
2007-10-16
Who would say this was a directorial debut?
Das Leben der Anderen !

I have never watched German movies before. For that matter, i watched few foreign language films lately like I SAW THE DEVIL, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and a few others. Call it my good taste of movies or just my good luck, i picked two German movies at random yesterday and decided to watch them without even reading the review and without even knowing that both of them had Ulrich Muhe as the lead actor. The movies were FUNNY GAMES and this epic masterpiece, THE LIVES OF THE OTHERS. My mind got blown after watching the FUNNY GAMES, and after watching THE LIVES OF THE OTHERS, it went back to where it was.

The lives of the others is truly a commendable masterpiece. If this is what's directorial debut for German directors, i would devote my whole free time to watching German movies from now on! Also, i want to take a bow after watching ULRICH MUHE's acting. To my surprise, his first movie i watched was FUNNY GAMES few hours back and i didn't knew that he was there in THE LIVES OF THE OTHERS too. Now i am totally spellbound by seeing him act.

His character of Weisler in the movie is a very complex one. It's simply complex. His eyes always give that look of a duty-bound STASI official who would do anything for his state. It's true that he becomes increasingly consumed and obsessed by the lives of Dreyman and christa while keeping a tab on them(surveillance) but not even a pinch of that is hinted until later near the end when he shockingly reaches Dreyman's house before Grubitz and hides the typewriter. Felt really bad because Christa died for no reason... but now that's what was destined to happen, right? I mean i could sense that for once.. This movie depicts about the system prevailing in the GDR in the best possible fashion...about the politics, the systems of confidentiality, the procedural systems, clandestine stuffs...... A serious reconsideration is needed by people who think that movies on the subject of SPYING need have action and more action in it. This movie not just debars that misconception but also replaces the same by an innovation and a story even more touchy, emotional, suspenseful all of which makes it a marvel.

Hats off to the direction and hats off to Ulrich Muhe. May his soul rest in peace.

P.S : Best foreign language movie ever watched.
2014-08-17
A great movie about mediocrity, thoroughness, morality and power.
Mediocrity, thoroughness, morality, power. These words come into my mind after seeing this very German movie, which is otherwise also a great movie. It has a great atmosphere, giving back the grey world of the DDR: grey buildings, grey Trabants and Wartburgs, grey people, a country ruled by mediocrity even in its colours.

Nevertheless, a thorough world: the Stasi thoroughly maintains the files about the many suspects, the agents thoroughly install the bugs in their flats and thoroughly watch them. (Later in the unified Germany they thoroughly maintain the very same files and make them open for everyone. A thorough nation, the Germans.)

But the Germans also value morality and this is also evident in the movie. The moral awakening causes the otherwise conformist writer to challenge the Communist power and the very same moral attitude causes the much less typical and much less anticipated awakening of the Stasi agent watching the writer. The latter transformation is clearly more exciting, as the grey, mediocre, thorough and lonely Stasi agent, the loyal servant realizes the real nature of the Communist power during the observation of the writer and her wife. In the end he also challenges this power in his own humble way.

The story should also be instructive for us Hungarians, as it shows an example of how a nation should handle its dark past. The Germans already did a fairly impressive "brainwash" after WWII to reach a catharsis on the sinful Nazi past and they did a similarly impressive moral confrontation in the 90's with their Communist past and the Stasi. I envy them, because we Hungarians have failed in this. The Germans consistently opened all the Stasi files, and allowed everyone to go and see who had been watched and who had been the agents and the informers.

In Hungary, this did not happen. What happened instead was that many of the informers became prominent politicians (other professions exposed to the public like artists, journalists, church officials were/are also heavily "infected") and the files were used to blackmail them, or to get rid of them in a few occasions. Not exactly the right way to purify the society. And the society is indeed far from being purified: they just do not really care if it turns out that some prominent person was an informer back in the Communist era. So, when such files come to the public, the former agent just says some weak excuses ("I was forced into this" and " I always tried to defend the people around me" and "I never wrote anything harmful", etc.) and then everything continues as before.

This was what happened to Oscar-winner film director István Szabó whose story is particularly striking. An article was published in a weekly uncovering the fact that he was an informer back in the early 60's. His personal post-scandal behaviour is a typical example of trying to get away with feeble excuses. The reaction of the society was an example of accepting these cheap excuses without criticism, just because Szabó was an otherwise famous, talented and popular person, a "nice" guy.

And this is a pity: Szabó is one of the few informers who could have stood up and confess his "sins" without losing his authenticity, because Szabó the artist has done the confession. His best films showed how the power can corrupt talented but weak persons, how one can lose one's integrity. He got his Oscar for exploring this very topic in Mephisto, (and he got Oscar nominations for two other similar movies with Brandauer). And then he did confront this issue even more explicitly in Taking sides, too. And he did it in the right way, exposing all the complexity and all the moral issues. So, it is indeed a pity he could not do it in the right way in his personal life. And it is indeed a pity that we Hungarians could not do it the right way. The Germans did.
2008-01-14
Best film I have seen...perhaps ever!
This is an incredible film. I had heard nothing about it until a friend suggested we take a look. I entered the cinema without a clue what it was about and whether it was going to be any good. It turned out to be stupendously good. The characters were brilliantly wholesome and the story was lacking in nothing.

The film is set in the 1980's in Germany and details the lives of those living under the regime in East Germany, focusing on some of the more "controversial" types in society; namely artists, play writes and actors. The relationships really tug at your heart and the turn of events is entirely unexpected.

I cannot believe that there is so little written about it but suggest that you see it now.
2007-02-04
A defining moment for a good man in the midst of corruption.
While the credits begin to roll, and as Captain Wiesler's (Ulrich Müle) face - transformed by muted joy - fades to black, I pondered, for a long time, the sheer brilliance of this finely crafted narrative from an equally brilliant first-time writer/producer/director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

This film is positive proof that, for the most part, it is the story that makes or breaks. That's not to say this film is without flaw; but, I'll come to that below.

Fade in starts in 1984 - a nicely ironic touch, I thought, given that the setting is the police state of the GDR – East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down. Wiesler is employed as an interrogator with the East German State Police, or Stasi. In the first few minutes, you witness his cold, calculated finesse in destroying a prisoner's claims of innocence. So also, you learn that Wielser is as cold as the state that produced him, perhaps colder than the concrete walls that house the hapless prisoners. Real joy is apparently beyond Wiesler's ken; his only smile is when he knows he's trapped his prisoner in a tissue of lies.

His superior, Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), knowing Wiesler's expertise, gives him a new task: dig up some dirt on one of the state's favorite sons – Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), a playwright and novelist of international repute who still manages to toe most of the Party line. Or does he?

Grubitz, however, has a hidden agenda: he wants damaging evidence against Dreyman because his superior, the lecherous Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme) lusts after Dreyman's girl friend, Christa-Maria (Martina Gedek), a well-known and acclaimed stage actress. Wiesler, initially unaware of that tangle, jumps at the chance because he knows such a high-profile case will help his career along. Or so he thinks...

Hence, Dreyman's apartment is bugged and then monitored by Wiesler and his assistant, Udo (Charly Hübner), from a hidden loft at the top of the apartment block; and so 24/7, they begin to listen to the everyday lives of others. And, in doing so, something happens to Wiesler: he becomes interested, curious, inquiring, concerned and finally involved directly. Thus, his transformation from a cold automaton under state socialism into an engaged and sympathetic human being begins...and is, I think, also a metaphor for the transformation of the GDR later, when the Wall comes down.

These are the times that I wish I knew German better. The sub-titles, however, are very good. Hence, don't be deterred: this is an unhurried story that is told with a minimum of words with the camera in medium close-up and close-up for much of the time, thus allowing the actors to let their emotions say what words often cannot.

The plot itself is completely linear, each scene naturally following, so there is little chance of confusion for the viewer. Hence, when the tension comes, you're ready for it; when an ironic twist occurs – and there are many - you immediately know why, and either smile, cry or cringe; when tragedy strikes, you almost know it was going to happen anyway. But, it is at the end, when Dreyman and Wiesler both realize, at different times, the common thread that binds them irrevocably, that the full impact of the title hits: when you come to know the lives of others, you come to know yourself for who and what you are. So only the hardest of hearts will turn away from the thrill, the sheer joy, which lights up Wiesler's face as the final scene fades to black. That ironically beautiful ending, I'm sure, will be much discussed, debated and admired for years, if not generations, to come.

As Wiesler, Ulrich Müle, with a striking resemblance to Anthony Hopkins, is simply outstanding; his performance is flawless. This is his movie, no question, despite the quality of the rest of the cast. Equally, the cinematography, direction and editing are first class. Moreover, it's quite obvious also that the production was not expensive, attesting to the fact you don't need a lot of money to craft a brilliant story and film. In that regard, the Cohen brothers' first film, Blood Simple (1984) comes to mind as a (lesser) comparison.

And the flaw? Perhaps not so much a flaw as two narrative quirks: why was it relatively easy, in the Dreyman case, for Wiesler to throw off years of loyalty to the party and the state? Perhaps it was just the straw that broke the camel's back? And, while listening to others' lives, why does Wiesler go to the trouble of typing up a concurrent report summary instead of using tapes to record all the conversations and do the typing later? It seemed such a backward step, operationally, because he was so used to recording his interrogations of prisoners. I have some ideas, but I'll leave you to sort out your own.

Some may complain about the length (137 min); others may yawn at what they consider to be unnecessary scenes. In my opinion, however, there's not a wasted shot, frame or scene: this is filming and story telling at its best, and deservedly won the Academy Award 2007 for Best Foreign Film.

As a final point, this story is – perhaps unintentionally - also an obvious and timely warning about the excesses that any state, regardless of politics, can initiate and maintain in the name of national security.
2008-03-21
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