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The Lives Of Others

The Lives of Others

Review by Tim Carson

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: The Making of The Lives of Others; Interviews with Cast and Crew; Audio Commentary by Writer / Director; Deleted Scenes; Extended Scenes; Original Stasi spying instruments photo gallery.

IT TOOK writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck almost five years to complete this, his debut film. Most of that time was spent researching life in East Germany and writing the script: filming took just 37 days. But it was time well spent, because The Lives Of Others is one of the best films of the year so far.

It’s a gripping thriller but also a touching love story, a chilling historical portrait of life in East Germany under the Socialists, and a moving account of one man’s journey to self-realisation.

It’s East Germany 1984 and Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler (the late Ulrich Muhe) is assigned to spy on playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), who are suspected of being disloyal to the State.

Wiesler is “encouraged” to find something by his boss Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), who in turn is being pressured by a government minister. But Wiesler’s loyalty is tested as he begins to observe the artists’ life and discovers the real reason for his mission.

Ulrich Muhe is superb as Wiesler, the dedicated and loyal Stasi officer whose drab, emotionless and politically correct life is gradually transformed by his surveillance of Georg and Christa-Maria’s lives. Sebastian Koch and Martina Gedeck are equally excellent as the artists caught in the twisted logic of the State and the men who enforce it – often for their own ends.

The film is a stark warning about life under a totalitarian regime and a truly scary portrait of what it’s like to be at the mercy of a government that has the power to look everywhere it wants and do anything it wants to you. But it also contains a message about the power of the human spirit and the heartening reality that there’s always hope for change. Outstanding.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 137mins