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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.
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Reviews
Stasi a lesson to us all
It has been suggested that the story of Hauptmann Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe), a senior, dedicated and zealous Stasi East German (DDR) secret police officer who starts to empathise with the subjects of his investigation is rather improbable, but to me it rings true emotionally.

His subjects are Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), a playwright currently in party favour, and his actress lover Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck). Sooner or later, an inhabitant of the chill world of secret policing with no private life to speak of sent to investigate "artists" is going to feel the warmth and charm of the milieu he is spying on, especially where, as here, he soon realises that his superiors' motives for the investigation are corrupt.

Apologists for the Stasi (and given it employed 100,000 and had at least 200,000 informers these are numerous) say the DDR was a system that ran according to laws which were designed to protect society, but as is inevitable in totalitarian regimes the laws were perverted by those in charge to serve their own ends. Thus loathsome culture minister Hempf wants to get something on Dreyman so he can have the lovely Christa –Maria all to himself, and Wiesler's slimy boss Grubitz is only too happy to oblige.

Wiesler's conversion from dedicated servant of the regime to furtive dissident is an amazing process to watch, and Ulrich Muhe, who happens to be an "ossi" (former DDR resident), makes it very plausible. Despite tragedy, the movie has a surprisingly upbeat ending. The complacent Hempf believes people don't change but this does not mean they are entirely predictable.

We see a fair amount of the Stasi at work. The rank and file are not portrayed as monsters, or automatons, just ordinary workers prepared to crack jokes about their masters at work. Most of what they do is minor harassment directed towards encouraging conformity. It is not hard to break the rules in a society where you need permission to subscribe to a foreign newspaper. It is an interesting irony that one of the catalysts of Wiesler's silent rebellion is the work of Bertold Brecht, at one time an enthusiastic supporter of the DDR.

Whatever you think of its politics, this is a very fine film, with not a single one of its 137 minutes wasted. It is certainly an antidote to the "ossie" nostalgia said to possess some residents of the former DDR and wonderfully satirised in "Good-Bye Lenin". But it also asks all of us how would we behave in similar circumstances. If it might be to your individual advantage (and to the disadvantage of your enemy) would you do it? The Stasi had even otherwise loving couples informing on each other. We can only hope that, despite our own overzealous secret policemen who are doing their best to undermine our civil liberties in the name of anti-terrorism, we never get to such depths in this country. I do hope Phil Ruddock (our Attorney-General) gets to see this movie.
2007-03-31
A gripping story, a true gem.
When I first heard about Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film "Das Leben der Anderen" and the issue it dealt with, I instantly tipped it to be one of the must-see films. As a great cinema-goer and a genuine admirer of the European cinematography, I was overwhelmed with a notion that a succession of thought-provoking German films would be continued with this moving insight into the lives of others at a very delicate period of the 80s in East Germany. After months of waiting, the Serbian audience was presented with "Das Leben der Anderen" during The Belgrade Film Festival and we related to it to the extent that whilst leaving the cinema many of us commented on how pleased we would be to see it win the Oscar. And it did, the very same night.

What makes "Das Leben der Anderen" so brilliant to me is the choice of topic- an account of the years of dangerous living in East Germany, during which almost everyone was dubbed suspicious by the Stasi, until after careful and detailed examination the opposite was proved, the obsession with the non-existent enemies of the non-existent prosperity, the overall greyness of the atmosphere in East Berlin. And then, there is also the process that the character of Wiesler undergoes, unveiling the emptiness of his own existence, the process presented with the subtle pace that Donnersmarck dexterously set. The ending is one of the most powerful ones that I have ever seen, containing just the right words- It is for me- spoken by a man who for the first time in his life seems to be doing something for himself, a man who had no life of his own, who lived through other people's lives, but also- It is for me- the words spoken to denote that somebody out there (Dreyman) actually dedicated something (Die Sonate vom guten Menschen) to him.

A gripping story of what happened somewhere in East Berlin to somebody else, not us, or maybe a reminder of what happened to many of us at some other place, at some other time, a reminder that came to life through the lives of others somewhere in Berlin.

So powerful, so beautifully crafted. A true gem.

10/10
2007-03-08
A film which will remain for decades in our minds..
A film which must obligatory be seen by anyone who claims he adores cinema. It's a masterpiece. It ends and you need at least a minute of time to realize what you have just seen! One of the five best foreign language film I ever watched. It merits of any praise. It is fully emotional and didactic in the same time. Sebastian Koch is exceptional in his role. I just don't have words for Ulrich Mühe, an excellent performance. Do not think that I exaggerate.. Just pay a visit to your nearest theater and find yourselves trapped in directing that masterly created by Florian Henckel. It is also a non-Hollywood production which proves once more that it isn't needed millions of dollars to create an outstanding by all means film.

I am sure you will enjoy it..
2013-11-01
Beauty in the darkest of circumstances, is the most beautiful of all.
I can honestly say, this is one of the finest examples of European film. The story is so dark and heart-breaking. In the UK and Northern America, we miss out on so much fabulous cinema because it is not in English, because we are too lazy to read subtitles, or learn a foreign language, but this masterpiece, this work of art, does not disappoint.

It is not a film you enjoy. You will not call it your favourite, discuss it with your friends, or even watch it regularly. You will however be filled with the harrowing knowledge it gives to you. The awful state of affairs in GDR in the 1980s. It will rock your soul. Your very conscience. You will be gripped, unable to look away, and yet desperate to go back to the ignorance of our sheltered lives, after all, isn't it bliss?

The story follows the surveillance of a playwright and his girlfriend in 1985 in Eastern Germany, and how the Captain in charge of the operation becomes intoxicated by their lives, and as such, begins to cover up the very acts he is meant to report. It eventually ends with him preventing the playwright's arrest by hiding the evidence that would have him convicted. The evidence in question a type writer that wrote an article that uncovered the policy in Eastern Germany of no longer recording suicides. The information on where this typewriter was hidden came from the girlfriend of the playwright. She kills herself, overcome by guilt, only for the captain to have already removed the evidence. The ending of the film, several years later sees the Playwright review the files on the surveillance operation on him in a united Germany and he discovers the work of the Captain who had in many ways help conceal the evidence. He finds out who he is and tracks him down. He sees him but he does not approach him. We then see the Captain who is now a postman of some kind walk past a book shop with the playwright's photograph and novel in the window. He goes in and opens a copy to see that is devoted to him. His code name. He buys a copy and the cashier asks him if he'd like it gift- wrapped. He replies: "No, it's for me."

It is the most beautiful ending to a film I have ever seen.
2011-08-10
A unique movie
If you're going to see one foreign-languaged movie this year, make it this one. Better yet, if you're going to see one movie this year, make it this one. Every aspect of this movie is just outstanding. The music is hauntingly beautiful, the cinematography is excellent, and even though I don't understand much German, the writing seemed excellent as well. It's all crafted together to a level of perfection that you rarely see. You really feel like you are in East Berlin as you watch this one.

What makes this movie unique is that you don't just get a truly great story. You also get great insight to the DDR. You get to see many different sides of the republic, witnessing many different fates.

PS: I don't really know why I gave this movie a 9 instead of a 10. You know what, consider my rating a 10.
2015-08-24
Chilly, bleak, brilliant
I had heard about this this film over the years and the animation that it inspired in people had drifted in and out of my consciousness, I must watch it..and then, I did, and it surprised me, it shocked me and it stayed, like a stain on my mind, difficult to wash away, nagging with layers and meaning. An incredible study of selflessness, selfishness, sexuality, relationships and despair, and yet there is in the bleached out cinematography, and the bleached out humanity, a wisp of hope and retribution. I won't add a spoiler, but if you like, it's denouement in the real world only adds to it's tragedy and it's lingering like smoke on your clothes after a night in a bar, a memory full of the joy of experience and the pain of experience.
2011-04-04
Ghost In The Machine
Spoilers Ahead:

Why should you watch this movie? For two main reasons: 1. To get a taste of what it was like to live in the Worker's Paradise and be a bug under a microscope for the Stasi or Secret Police. 2. To see that within every human soul, however corrupt or evil, there remains a tiny spark of nobility waiting to be rekindled. The movie begins with Hauptmann lecturing his class on how to torture suspects with sleep deprivation and incessant, repetitive questioning. When a student temerariously dares to object to his cruelty, watch him look at him like an annoying, dangerous insect and circle his name on the seating chart. His boss has a job for him, unbeknownst to both of them, the corpulent Party boss has a hankering for a local playwright's girlfriend. Of course, it is all cloaked in Party B.S.: He must be a subversive, if you prove he is, up the ladder you will go. Hauptmann, suspicious of everyone, agrees, he knows the 'intellectual type' is always disloyal and consents to setting up a surveillance system in the couple's apartment. Two scenes are so great at conveying what it is to be a prisoner in your own country. The first, the neighbor woman, across from the couple's apartment looks out of her peep hole and sees the monitoring work being set up. Hauptmann pounces on her, banging violently on her door,"You tell anyone what you have seen and you will be arrested. Be sure to reward her for her cooperation."

My favorite is a tiny, little boy in the elevator with Hauptmann; he tells him that his father says the Stasi are evil, he is maybe five or six. Hauptmann gets out his notebook,"What is your father's name please?" The movie follows the surveillance and Hauptmann's movie long slow awakening that his master is a disgusting, obese reprobate who lusts after the playwright's girlfriend. As the movie progresses, we see Hauptman concealing more and more of the resistance activities Dreyman is up to with his little opposition cell. At first, his wife accedes to the slime's overtures but watch for the tragic consequences when she dares to reject him. I will not lie to you, the movie is a tragedy; worse than that, the villain of the movie emerges unscathed and happily indifferent to all the suffering he caused. Yet, as you watch this great film, you will see what it was to live in a country that was like being on a slide under the government's microscope. Dreyman's fellow playwright who dared to write something that offended the Party is cast out forever. Eventually he commits suicide, who can blame him?

The main theme hidden within this treasure is how within the monster that Hauptmann is, on the surface, he begins to love Christa and have compassion for her. This doesn't happen overnight; it is a slow, film long transformation. Only at the tragic ending does his boss figure out what has been going on due to Hauptmann's impeccable reputation. The emptiness of his life as he comes home, turns on the propaganda and has sex with a prostitute; this is all done without dialog purely visually, like Leone or Kubrick. Yes, the monster begins to slowly thaw and awaken to the horrors of the Stasi and the prison camp of East Germany. Watch for the scene where, in the cafeteria, some worker makes a joke about the President of East Germany. The delineation of what it was like to be a slave to the Party is worth owning this movie for but my favorite part of it is showing the existential redemption of Hauptmann. He sees, finally, what it is that he does: destroying people for the Party.

It is a very bleak, sad, tragic, little treasure. Koch does his usual excellent job of acting. It is simply the best German movie I have ever watched. Within the darkness of this monster, there is one small ray of light that grows beyond his control. Existential Sunrise, My Friends.

"Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness Only Light Can Do That; Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate Only Love Can Do That." Martin Luther King
2015-11-29
The Lives of Others
Is it possible for a man to be good if he's part of a bad system? This is just one of the many questions raised by the 2006 Oscar Winner for best foreign language film. Set In 1984 East Berlin, Gerd Wiesler is an agent of the Stasi. A good one. So good he conducts lectures on interrogation techniques of enemies of the state. He's tasked with an assignment to monitor Georg Dreyman, an influential playwright with on the surface seems a poster-child of the GDR.

What unfolds is a thoughtful and thought-provoking drama. Wiesler observes not only his target but the nature of the system he works for. His observation, near silent most of the time, reveals not only the complexities of Dreyman's personal life and political beliefs but also the corruption of a system he holds steadfastly to be perfect. It's a beautifully profound human drama that asks suitably profound questions. Can bad acts be legitimised if the perpetrator believes them to be inherently good? Can art be true without the freedom of expression? What are the limits of loyalty? The performances are uniformly excellent. Ulrich Mühe shines as the torn Stasi officer. Playing him as a blank canvas reflecting the world around him yet wrestling with his own loneliness. While Martina Gedeck is excellent as the tragic and trapped actress whose relationship with Dreyman is stretched to breaking point.

The film is subtle, observant and never feels the need to over-state it's key argument about the corruptive and corrosive effect of the Stasi on the GDR. Yet, the historical and political trappings are a framework to a touching human drama that works on almost all levels. Outstanding.
2014-04-08
The ghost of authoritarian regimes
I've been taking German lessons for about 2 months now, and since movies were great in helping me learn English language I'm always looking for German films to watch (as well as German music to listen to) in order to educate my ears.

Anyway, I went to this place where I get all sort of rare movies and this one caught my attention... and I had no idea it got the Oscar for foreign language film this year! So I watched it without prejudice and... what did I find? A MASTERPIECE! This is the kind of movie that gets your attention from the first moment, and makes you interested in understanding the characters' psyche, which is very varied: you have the idealistic good guys, the idealistic bad guys, the people that broad their minds understanding that no political dogma is better than individual freedom, etc. And even though the movie has very tough moments it is all so well done and presented with such a good taste that in the end you feel some sort of relieved.

In this present day, when the ghost of authoritarian regimes still fly over our heads (in my country we're getting closer and closer to that reality), this movie will make you think about how important love, life and freedom are.

A must see!
2007-03-11
You can sacrifice anything but yourself and your love and love filled with guilt is better to be dead.
You can sacrifice anything but yourself and your love and love filled with guilt is better to be dead.

The theme of the movie is complex to construe coz it has many layers, its very humane as a theme and brings very gross realities as a human being. Setup in the 1980's Germany where it was still divided and it was in East Germany about an artist couple, a writer and an actress being watched over by the Stasi, by HGW XX/7 the code name of the Policeman who wil note the records of what the couple does all through. This policeman played by Ulrich Muhe is the protagonist of the film. Now, the whole movie drives with his writings, his listenings and what he makes out of them. Truth is kept alive by this man and that is what he lives for, for truth.

Now, few movies have a very engrossing screenplay from first frame and this one has it and deservingly is one of the best films in terms of story and screenplay, the direction is so well done that never for a slightest moment did I feel that something was out of place or it is uncalled for, everything went as per the script which is the true hero. There are no aberrations as such as each character is etched out superbly. You cannot write characters as black and white coz there is a flaw in each and that's what is shown.

It's one of the few films that is supremely human and music too has it's own place to bring out humanity, like reference of Lenin's quote on Betthoven's symphony. Watch it to know it, I cannot comprehend in mere words what this film is.

One of the superb films in recent times. I make it 5/5.
2014-09-20
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