Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Lives of Others

Last Friday, I went to the pictures with Susanne - our choice for the evening was The Lives of Others, a German film I had read about in Newsweek a couple of months ago. More recent reviews in the local press were equally good, so we decided it would be an interesting movie for us to see.

It was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time - it's very low key and slow, but very moving at the same time. It's set in 1984 and is about an East German Secret Police (Stasi) officer who has been assigned to watch (or rather listen to) a writer and his lover, an actress. As the story unfolds, he becomes emotionally involved in the lives of these people. The actor who plays this officer, Ulrich Mühe, is excellent throughout. He doesn't say much, but he really draws you into his world.

At the start of the movie, he is very much the dedicated agent - his whole life revolves around his work - he seems to have no other life - he lives in a drab apartment where he watches TV while eating a dish of rice and tomato sauce. He cares deeply about his work, he is very precise and punctual, he teaches interrogation techniques at the Stasi "academy", and seems to be perfectly suited to his job. He dresses in grey and looks completely invisible. But, as the story develops, he starts to care about the people he is watching too, and to see a glimpse of another life.

It won Oscar for Best Foreign movie, and it's sad that it's not getting a wider audience, but I guess that's always the way with non-English-speaking movies. I really would recommend it. Even if you're not into sub-titled films, you should give it a try

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