This movie might be the most realistic depiction of the former East Germany, 5 years before the fall of the wall. The movie circles around three main characters and there is a wider circle of the power who pull the puppet strings for a variety of reasons which become clear as the movie unfolds.
This film truly justifies its Oscar in the ‘best foreign film’ category.
Sebastian Koch (Georg Dreyman), a playwright on the verge of celebrating his 40th birthday, who shares an apartment with his actress girlfriend, Martina Gedeck (Christa-Maria Sieland). Sebastian Koch falls under suspicion and the whole sophisticated Stasi spying system comes into play in the era of 1984. His whole apartment is bugged and every sound is monitored. They both are superb in this timeless movie.
Ulrich Mühe as the State Security (Stasi – Staatsicherheit) agent whose task it is to monitor Koch’s suspiciously free thinking playwright, brings near perfect performance to the movie.
Artists in East Germany were strictly controlled by the state. Some of them played an intricate cat-and-mouse game with the Stasi–going just far enough to attract notice, but not so far as to bring about arrest. The problem with the cat-and-mouse game was that the cats had very sharp teeth, which they did not hesitate to use. Blacklisting was just one of the state’s weapons–a single word from a high official and you never acted again, or your plays or music were never performed. Although both Christa-Maria and Georg have been careful and discrete, they haven’t been careful and discrete enough to escape the Stasi’s interest.
The movie, although in color, looks as if it were shot in black and white. The mood and the locations are drab and muted. Obviously, the color reflects the political and social situation of the time. The camerawork and editing were outstanding. Every other aspect of the film is equally excellent, particularly the work of all the supporting actors.
The first-time writer/producer/director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has done a superb job. It’s very delicate and clever in the way he tries only to show the couple in the way Ulrich Mühe also sees them, so when his shift is over, we as an audience also stop seeing the family which helps us to understand how Ulrich is so compelled with their lives and also makes it exceedingly gripping!.
Not only does this film represent a riveting thriller, but it provides a powerful political message. After you have seen The Lives of Others, you will not keep quiet when someone tells you “I do not care if the government taps my phone; I have got nothing to hide.”
The writing is incredibly intelligent and also gives you good insight into the split Germany before the Berlin wall came down. It is interesting and moving with a very touching ending. The screenplay also does not fear about delving deeply into the characters either. It is full of excellent characterization and raises some delicate themes in the correct manner.
This is an extraordinary film–well acted and directed, with a compelling plot and message. A film which must obligatory be seen by anyone who claims, that he adores cinema. It ends and you need at least a minute of time to realize what you have just seen! Das Leben der Anderen is the finest movie I’ve seen for a long time.