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The Lives of Others
Drama, Thriller
IMDB rating:
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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Brilliant movie
Germany has produced some very good movies recently ... but this one is in a class of its own. The main power of a quality movie, for me, has always been two things, a good story and mood - and this film has both. The story keeps you interested through all 139 minutes. You actually feel yourself transported to the 1980s of the former German republic. They have carefully chosen locations that looks east-germanish ... lots of "Trabant" cars on the streets :-) and the general grayish mood is very well recreated. The ordinary peoples fear of the Stasi is realistically portrayed. And i just love the twist in the story in the last 20 minutes or so. A brilliant movie that anyone even remotely interested in non-mainstream movies should see.
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.
Every positive word written about this movie is absolutely true
I am still quite speechless. Overwhelmed by how utterly compelling the story was and by how emotive the acting story was. Floored by the unbelievably great character development. This film is close to perfect. It is a spiritual cousin to 2004's magnificent Downfall and shares a lot of similarities with Paul Verhoeven's stunning Black Book from last year, not just because these films share two actors. This multi-faceted character driven masterpiece really is as good as it's hype says.

Sebastian Koch in particular absolutely shines. He is one of the best international actors working today and he follows the brilliance of his role in Black Book with the lead here. With his bohemian, dishevelled good looks and brilliant charisma, he's the best German-speaking actor since Bruno Ganz. But he is far from the only good actor in this movie, Ulrich Mühe as the State Security (Stasi) agent whose task it is to monitor Koch's suspiciously free thinking playwright, brings another near perfect performance to the movie. Agent Wiesler initially appears to the audience as the polar opposite of Koch's character. With his grey button down clothing, closely cropped hair and consistently emotionless face he symbolises everything about the overbearing untrusting Socialist government of East Germany that is wrong. He could easily have remained that character throughout the whole film but he becomes the surprising emotional centre of the story and the line between heroes and villains is significantly shifted (something which extends to the supporting cast as well. Truth be told there are probably only two characters in this film whom I didn't have to rethink my opinion of). Weisler reveals himself as a lonely, isolated man who risks his entire career as his attitude to his subject changes from one of mistrust to one of near-adoration. There is an undeniable link between the two characters even though they never share a single scene and Georg Dreyman (Koch) doesn't even find about Wiesler until the last 10 minutes of the movie, which leads us up to what should go down as one of the greatest endings in cinema history. Just thinking about the final spoken lines brings the tears to my eyes.

As I said, without a doubt one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. And as much as I adore Pan's Labyrinth, this one really did deserve it's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year. An absolute masterpiece.
Good German(s)
Since the early days of film-making--actually, since the first plays were written--the gold standard for a good dramatic work is one that combines an intriguing plot with complex characters, to illuminate something about human behavior. It's surprising, then, that so many movies still fall short of the mark. At the risk of oversimplifying things, plot-heavy movies tend to ignore character development, and character-study movies ignore a streamlined plot for the sake of a series of episodes. It takes something like "The Lives of Others," an excellent and moving drama, to remind you of how great a movie can be when it combines these elements.

Not only does this movie have a suspenseful plot that follows the logic of cause-and-effect until everything ties together beautifully, but the workings of the plot are unpredictable, and intimately linked to the characters' psychology. For drama does not result merely from watching external events happen to characters, but from seeing them actively make choices that affect their own lives and (forgive the pun) the lives of others.

The set-up is simple but highly resonant: in 1984 East Berlin, by-the-book Stasi agent Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is assigned to wiretap and listen in on playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his actress girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck). But because Dreyman has always presented himself as a loyal citizen, Wiesler dimly begins to realize just how paranoid and corrupt his government is. Also, he becomes fascinated with the couple's warm, semi-bohemian lifestyle, which contrasts with his own solitary existence. Wiesler thus finds himself reconsidering his values, while at the same time Georg and Christa-Maria reconsider theirs. Should Georg use his writing talent to reveal the horrible conditions in East Germany? Should Christa-Maria submit to a lustful government minister, who could ruin her career if he doesn't get his way? These choices are hard, and only lead to more hard choices.

This plot allows for scenes loaded with the great dramatic irony and subtext that results from one character knowing something that another does not. The movie's complex and intelligent themes include theatre/fakery/acting versus real life, and the voyeurism of a spy versus the voyeurism of a cinema-goer. And above all, "The Lives of Others" is a moving exploration of ethics and humanity. Not many recent movies ask the question "What does it really mean to be a good person?" and even fewer answer it with the honesty and depth that this film does.

"The Lives of Others" does not over-explain itself--none of the characters can confide in anyone, so they make their difficult choices without talking about why they've acted that way. Yet everything that happens in the movie has the ring of emotional truth. Thanks to the beautifully realized performances, you never doubt that the characters would behave in exactly that way, nor that they feel deep anguish in coming to their decisions.

I haven't seen all the acclaimed movies from the past year yet, but as it stands now, "The Lives of Others" is my choice for the best movie of 2006.
Humanity behind the iron curtain.
I grew up hearing about the horrors of living in an Eastern Block country. The blandness of life, the constant looking over one's shoulder. The Trabant! I was always fascinated by the irony that Soviet Russia reacted to the fall of the 3rd Reich with a socialist mask upon their fascist faces. This movie was a wonderfully intimate look at the grim reality of the Iron Curtain, and the humanity that simmered under the surface eventually leading to the wall collapse. Reagan didn't bring the wall down, the people did.... and Roger Waters. ha-ha This was a compelling movie. I can see why Depp and Jolie fell in love with the director. I can only hope his next film is better than The Tourist.
"Sonate vom guten Menschen" also made this reviewer dewy-eyed!
A deserving Oscar winner if ever there was one, though I was never one to pay special attention to the Oscars, I was almost shocked by how perfect this debut movie by a 34-year-old director very nearly was. Set in East Berlin in the mid-80s, some five years before the infamous Wall crumbled, it follows the STASI as they plot to find incriminating evidence against playwright Georg Dreyman, who'd been the regime's darling until a ruthless minister frivolously develops a lecherous desire to possess his girlfriend, renowned stage actress Christa-Maria Sieland. Though both Sebastian Koch (last seen by me as the Nazi Captain Müntze in Verhoeven's Black Book) and Martina Gedeck are excellent as the central couple trapped within the STASI's web of eavesdropping and paranoia tactics, the real hero and star of the movie is without a doubt Ulrich Mühe. I had last seen in Michael Haneke's Funny Games, where he played Georg, the unfortunate husband and dad who comes to a sticky end. In The Lives of Others, Mühe memorably fills the shoes of the STASI agent Gerd Wiesler who listened to Dreyman's daily life through the bugs in his flat. Balding, physically non-descript Wiesler conveys more with one subtle shift of an eyeball than the whole stellar cast of an Oliver Stone movie. This actor is so charismatic, he blows even the undeniably talented and handsome Sebastian Koch clear off the screen. In this movie not only are things seldom what they seem, but humanity and redemption can be found in the most ridiculously unexpected places.

Shocking, humane and moving yet never predictable, heavy-handed or melodramatic, the movie is also blessed by a solid script, a very plausible storyline free of plot holes and an immaculately researched scenario. I've read that both the movie's director and Mühe remember their experiences living in the Communist regime. Though the former was still very young, he claims to clearly remember the climate of paranoia he grew up in, while Mühe later discovered that he had been spied upon by his own wife! Oddly enough, one accusation levelled against the movie by some IMDb reviewers is that of misogyny. Being normally very sensitive to a discriminatory portrayal of women, I was very baffled by this. I've come to the conclusion that some touchy viewers expect their movie characters – especially those of women or ethnic minorities – to be paragons of virtue or role models, rather than simply human beings with flaws and plausible weaknesses. In my view Christa-Maria's main sin was not to be "weak", as some other viewers here claim, but simply "human". If anything, the movie also provided a damning portrait of the brutality of the regime against women.

Perhaps my only, very minor complaint with the movie was its ending, which felt a tad rushed - though it was a beautiful ending all the same - uplifting and sad, poetic and yet also grounded in the starkest reality.
Amazing movie
Set on the 1980s and during the Cold War, "Das Leben der Anderen" tells the story of the world created by the Stasi (the internal army created by the Socialist Party) and the citizens of the GDR living in a world of repression.

The official state police, Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhn), is a specialist in interrogation and is assigned the espionage case of a playwright named Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch).

It is for this reason (being a playwright) that he is placed under surveillance. As the investigation progresses, he unknowingly becomes aware of its own existence and limited empathy for those who follow him, taking precedence over their obedience and loyalty to the Stasi - so much so that he begins to fudge documents and lying about the events in the life of Dreyman.

"Das Leben der Anderen" is a low budget ever for a German film but it is exceptionally written capturing the essence of people's feelings at the time.

The photography is wonderful and captures a dark and drab East Germany, with its dull lighting and soft colors, perfectly illustrated the dismay of its citizens. The performances throughout the film are excellent, the best performance however for me is Ulrich Muhn. the film is a great piece of art and entertainment that should be seen by any movie lover.

My Rating - 9/10

(Original Review written May 25, 2013)
European cinema when it is good worth every minute. The film excites from beginning to end.
A masterpiece!

European cinema when it is good worth every minute. The film excites from beginning to end. In addition to the intelligent operation and behavioral history, there is no dead time in the film, everything has a meaning, a bond and a good pace. It's very interesting the way this movie talks about the respect or not of a person's privacy and the confrontation between dictatorship and freedom of expression ...

I have to take off my hat to Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. He has done an excellent job. Yes, we all ought to take off our hats. He is an amazing director and writer.
Probably the best film of 2006
Even though The Departed may be judged by most to be more powerful and shocking, this film shocks but it also saddens, and then encourages the heart in a unique way that senses-bludgeoning films like The Departed cannot...in the inexorable and certain life-draining way that only stories detailing the harsh realities of a life without hope can do, and then which show a complete about face and tell the resulting story of total transformation and its effects on the same people. Always difficult to do, but was done with brilliance in this film.

Most of this film was about people's unhappy lives without hope under Socialism, but then come the transformations, individual and national, that change everything. This film develops the story of dreary but threatening communist "hope oppression" better than any I can remember since the '50's film, "1984". Without hope to encourage us, what else is there to the real value of life?

The very soulful and talented Urich Muhe(his features hint of Kevin Spacey) plays the role of a hardened national police captain who is the central screw on which the story turns, a totally committed socialist party cop who undergoes a complete, but not overtly joyful, change of heart that works to alter forever the fortunes of the story's foil, a writer/playwright of increasingly "questionable" political views who, as a result, becomes a central target of the Stasi, the national security police that was shown to be ubiquitous and all-powerful, and every bit as formidable and scary as the outrageously inhuman "Big Brother" that terrified citizens in "1984".

Early on, Muhe played the police captain as a Jack Webb/Joe Friday-type cop.....humorless, cold, stiff and ruthlessly committed to doing the best but also the meanest job he could do in a mean business to root out any and all political dissenters. Muhe's role interpretation in his gradual but complete transformation to the other side personally and politically was nothing less than acting brilliance, and probably the best acting of the year in any film. Don't miss it, as you will be missing rare acting greatness if you do, and at least the equal to the brilliance of Massimo Triosi in Il Postino.

Also, along with the greatest movie-ending lines in history, the very last line in this film summed up everything that happened before in the best and fewest words possible, and it will surely move you greatly, not only from immense sadness and pity for what happened to the disgraced former cop but also from great hope and gratitude for the people in this world who finally see the true light as did Muhe's transformed police captain, and then put it to work bettering the world even though the personal cost may be great. An heroic act of course, but even more, one worthy of emulation by all of us.

"The Lives of Others" was so emotionally powerful throughout but nearly overwhelming at the end, as it showed so well one of the greatest life-lessons that can be learned by anyone, and one never to be forgotten....some of your good deeds will be rewarded in some way.

(added 1/23/08: one of the best movies and lead role acting in decades. Urich Muhe died recently, and what a tragic loss of talent and person. His death makes me also sadly grieve the similar fates of the magnificent Massimo Triosi of Il Postino, and the creative genius Adrienne Shelley of Waitress....both also died much too young right after their highly acclaimed triumphs in those films.)
Unforgettable Movie About East Germany
The Lives of Others,Das Leben der Anderen in German,is a dramatic feature that marks the directorial debut Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.It is about the monitoring of the cultural scene of East Berlin by agents of the Stasi,the East Germany's secret police.The movie stars Ulrich Mühe as Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler;Ulrich Tukur as his boss Anton Grubitz; Sebastian Koch as the playwright Georg Dreyman; and Martina Gedeck as Dreyman's lover as well as a prominent East German actress,Christa-Maria Sieland.It is an Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006.

The Lives of Others has its time setting in 1984.Capt. Gerd Wiesler is an agent of the Stasi,the East German Secret Police. Weisler carefully and dispassionately investigates people who might be deemed some sort of threat to the state. Shortly after Weisler's former classmate, Lt. Col. Grubitz, invites him to a theatrical piece by celebrated East German playwright Georg Dreyman, Minister Bruno Hempf informs Weisler that he suspects Dreyman of political dissidence, and wonders if this renowned patriot is all that he seems to be. As it turns out, Hempf has something of an ulterior motive for trying to pin something on Dreyman: a deep- seated infatuation with Christa-Maria Sieland, Dreyman's girlfriend. Nevertheless, Grubitz, who is anxious to further his career, appoints Weisler to spy on the gentleman with his help. Weisler plants listening devices in Dreyman's apartment and begins shadowing the writer. As Weisler monitors Dreyman's daily life, however, he discovers the writer is one of the few East Germans who genuinely believes in his leaders. This changes over time, however, as Dreyman discovers that Christa-Maria is being blackmailed into a sexual relationship with Hempf, and one of Dreyman's friends, stage director Albert Jerska, is driven to suicide after himself being blackballed by the government. Dreyman's loyalty thus shifts away from the East German government, and he anonymously posts an anti-establishment piece in a major newspaper which rouses the fury of government officials. Meanwhile, Weisler becomes deeply emotionally drawn into the lives of Dreyman and Sieland, and becomes something of an anti-establishment figure himself, embracing freedom of thought and expression.

The Lives of Others is the best German movie I have ever seen.It is a spy film like no other since it does not cater to car chases and action scenes but rather it focuses on character of the people in the story and character development.It is a a powerful but quiet film, constructed of hidden thoughts and secret desires but nevertheless,it is not short on suspense and tension that makes it truly one engaging and absorbing film.Inspite of its political themes and implications,I still find the movie more about humanity rather than the ideologies and anti- establishment beliefs presented in it.Added to the great qualities of the film,the cast delivers in their great performance.

Overall,The Lives of Others is one unforgettable movie about the past history when Germany was divided into two nations with the East German people in particular.
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