The Lives of Others

March 23rd, 2006








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The Lives of Others

Still of Ulrich Mühe and Ulrich Tukur in The Lives of OthersStill of Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of OthersStill of Martina Gedeck and Sebastian Koch in The Lives of OthersStill of Martina Gedeck in The Lives of OthersStill of Ulrich Mühe, Thomas Thieme and Ulrich Tukur in The Lives of OthersFlorian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Sebastian Koch and Thomas Thieme in The Lives of Others

Plot
In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.

Release Year: 2006

Rating: 8.5/10 (113,132 voted)

Critic's Score: 89/100

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Stars: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch

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.

Cast:
Martina Gedeck - Christa-Maria Sieland
Ulrich Mühe - Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler
Sebastian Koch - Georg Dreyman
Ulrich Tukur - Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz
Thomas Thieme - Minister Bruno Hempf
Hans-Uwe Bauer - Paul Hauser
Volkmar Kleinert - Albert Jerska
Matthias Brenner - Karl Wallner
Charly Hübner - Udo
Herbert Knaup - Gregor Hessenstein
Bastian Trost - Häftling 227
Marie Gruber - Frau Meineke
Volker Michalowski - Schriftexperte (as Zack Volker Michalowski)
Werner Daehn - Einsatzleiter in Uniform
Martin Brambach - Einsatzleiter Meyer

Taglines: Before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany's Secret Police Listened to Your Secrets



Details

Official Website: Official site [United States] |

Release Date: 23 March 2006

Filming Locations: Altes Stadthaus, Klosterstraße, Berlin, Germany

Box Office Details

Budget: $2,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: €814,337 (Germany) (26 March 2006) (159 Screens)

Gross: $77,356,819 (Worldwide) (1 February 2009)



Technical Specs

Runtime:



Did You Know?

Trivia:
Nicolette Krebitz auditioned for the role of Christa, which eventually went to Martina Gedeck.

Goofs:
Continuity: When Christa sees where the typewriter is hidden, we see Dreyman hiding it and the papers with it. When she comes in and goes away, he puts the papers again in the hiding spot.

Quotes:
[first lines]
Guard: [subtitled version] Stand still. Eyes to the floor.
[pause]
Guard: Walk on.



User Review

A stunning directorial debut which deserves to be seen everywhere

Rating: 10/10

Because this movie deals with recent German history, some German comments about it get sidetracked into minute historical discussions. Forget them; Das Leben der Anderen is an outstanding movie that should be seen everywhere.

The former East Germany, a relatively small country of 16 million people, was controlled by the most sophisticated, cunning, and thorough secret police the world has ever seen, the East German Ministerium für Staatsicherheit, or "Stasi." The Stasi had about 90,000 employees -- a staggering number for such a small population -- but even more importantly, recruited a network of hundreds of thousands of "unofficial employees," who submitted secret reports on their co-workers, bosses, friends, neighbors, and even family members. Some did so voluntarily, but many were bribed or blackmailed into collaboration.

Das Leben der Anderen, ("The Life of Others") German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's debut, builds this painful legacy into a fascinating, moving film. In its moral seriousness, artistic refinement, and depth, Das Leben der Anderen simply towers over other recent German movies, and urgently deserves a wide international release. The fulcrum of the movie (but probably not its most important character) is Georg Dreyman, an up-and-coming East German playwright in his late 30s. Played by the square-jawed Sebastian Koch, Dreyman is an (apparently) convinced socialist who's made his peace with the regime. His plays are either ideologically neutral or acceptable, and he's even received State honors.

Although he is a collaborator, he is also a Mensch. He uses his ideological "cleanliness" to intervene on behalf of dissidents such as his journalist friend Paul Hauser (Hans-Uwe Bauer). These unfortunates must contend with every humiliation a totalitarian state can invent: their apartments are bugged, friends and family are recruited to inform on them, and chances to publish or perform can be extinguished by one stray comment from a Central Committee member. The most recalcitrant can be kicked out of the country and stripped of their citizenship, like the singer songwriter Wolf Biermann.

Dreyman lives in a shabby-genteel, book-filled apartment with his girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), a renowned actress who often appears in his plays. At the beginning of the movie, Dreyman himself comes under the regime's suspicion, for reasons that become clear only later. The fearful machinery of the Stasi rumbles to life: his movements are recorded, and his apartment bugged. The Stasi had bugging down to a science: a team of meticulously-trained agents swoop into your apartment when you're not there, install miniscule, undetectable listening devices in every single room -- including the bathroom -- and vanish in less than an hour, leaving no trace. Agents set up an secret electronic command post nearby, keeping a written record of every joke, argument, or lovemaking session.

The "operative process" against Dreyman is overseen by Stasi captain Gerd Wiesler, played by Ulrich Mühe, an actor from the former East who was himself once in the Stasi's cross-hairs. Captain Wiesler starts the film as a colorless, icy, tight-lipped professional who shows no mercy in fighting the "enemies of socialism": if he needs to interrogate a suspect for 10 hours without sleep to get a confession, he will do so -- and then place the seat-cover the suspect sat on in a vacuum jar in case the miscreant should later need to be tracked by bloodhounds. At night, Captain Wiesler returns to his tiny apartment in an grubby, anonymous high-rise. He settles himself among his inexpressibly drab furniture, eats a meal squeezed out of a plastic tube while watching reports about agricultural production, and then goes to bed alone.

As Captain Wiesler listens to Dreyman and his girlfriend he begins to like them, or perhaps envy the richness and depth of their lives in comparison with his own. Perhaps he also begins to wonder why a stranger should have the right to become privy to Dreyman's most intimate secrets: his occasional impotence, his girlfriend's infidelities, his artistic crises. At the same time, though, Wiesler is under pressure: a Central Committee official has made it clear to Wiesler and his toadying supervisor Lieutenant Colonel Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), that Dreyman has to go down.

I won't discuss more plot details, as there are unexpected twists. Each of the main characters is drawn deeper into the conflict between Dreyman and the State, and each is torqued by loyalty conflicts that intensify as the pressure increases. The cast is outstanding. Sebastian Koch finds the right combination of poetic detachment and watchful sophistication for Dreyman. Martina Gedeck, as his girlfriend, has the most challenging role, since she's buffeted from all sides: by her suspicious partner, by Stasi agents trying to turn her, and by a lecherous Culture Minister. Ulrich Mühe plays the Stasi agent's transformation with reserve, only hinting at the stages in his character's secret, but decisive, change of heart.

Director von Donnersmarck, a blue-blooded West German, has re-created the gray, drained look of the former East, and the nature of Stasi intimidation, with a fidelity that has earned the praise of East Germans. His pacing is relaxed, but doesn't drag; although there are a few longueurs, most scenes unfold at just the right pace, and there are several great set-pieces. One is a bone-rattling episode in the Stasi canteen in which a young recruit is caught telling a joke about East German premier Erich Honecker. Another is the penultimate scene, a masterstroke in which Dreyman gains access to his massive Stasi file, while reading it, suddenly understands episodes of his own life which had never made sense to him before. The ending is perfectly judged; bittersweet and moving without swelling strings or teary confessions.

Das Leben der Anderen is an outstanding movie, probably a great one. If it's not picked up for international distribution, it will be a bitter loss for thousands of potential moviegoers in other countries.




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