F.I.L.M. of the Week (January 29, 2010)

29 01 2010

The “F.I.L.M. of the Week” series has been on hiatus for two weeks, and I want it to return with a big bang.  Thus, I chose a movie that ranks among the most well-executed dramas I have ever seen.  Even though it was recognized at the Oscars for its excellence, you probably haven’t seen it just because it isn’t in the English language.  This movie is “The Lives of Others,” and don’t let the subtitles scare you.

The movie takes us back to the year 1984 in East Germany, where the socialist republic reigned and the Berlin Wall still stood.  We follow two stories that give us a very unique glimpse at how the Germans feel about the times.  The first is of Georg Dreyman, a playwright who is writing in an era where artistic expression is severely capped.  Not unlike McCarthy America, the government has blacklisted writers who speak out against them.  Dreyman observes the effects of the blacklisting on a friend, Jerska, and watches as he struggles with living a life where he cannot do what he loves.  This inspires Dreyman to write a piece exposing the true horrors of the government – an act he must do with the utmost secrecy and discretion.

While all this is happening, we also follow Stasi (the East German secret police) officer Wiesler listening to every activity occurring in Dreyman’s apartment.  Wiesler became suspicious of the writer after seeing one of his shows, and he subsequently had the dwelling bugged for sound.  Because we primarily see him listening to the apartment, Wiesler is a very quiet presence in the film.  However, he is an extremely strong presence because of a compelling performance by Ulrich Muhe.  He animates Weisler’s facial motions, and we learn all that we need to know from the little twitches.

“The Lives of Others” is the first film of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (a name which I copied and pasted from IMDb because I didn’t even want to try to spell it), but there isn’t the slightest hint of inexperience or amateurism here.  He understands how brilliant movies are made – with layers of subtlety.  It’s not a very heated emotional movie, but emotion still exists.  The events may not seem to be amounting to much as you watch, but the payoff in the closing 10 minutes is worth it and more.  And while I’m on the subject of the ending, be prepared to be affected in a very different way than you expected.


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3 responses

30 01 2010
Castor

One of my favorite movies of all-time with a very satisfying ending. RIP Ulrich Muhe…

1 02 2010
mcarteratthemovies

This is my 22nd favorite movie of, well, forever. It’s one of the first foreign films I truly loved, and one of my favorite German movies. I keep watching it and it keeps impressing me, especially the subtlety and the power of Muhe’s performance.

25 11 2011
filmdrivel

Probably my favourite film i’ve seen this year, the ending was perfection, so touching.

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