The Lives of Others


The Lives of Others (German: Das Leben der Anderen) is a 2006 German film and one of the very best movies I've watched this year. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and starring Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, and Sebastian Koch, The Lives of Others for the most part takes place in East Berlin in 1984.


Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler (Mühe) is ordered to run a surveillance operation against playwright Georg Dreyman (Koch), who's in a romantic relationship with actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Gedeck). Working with stacks of surveillance equipment in alternating shifts with an associate, Wiesler listens in on Dreyman and sometimes Sieland (the writer's apartment is bugged) and meanwhile learns that another man, the minister of culture, is using his authority in the GDR's secret police to force sexual acts on Sieland, unbeknownst initially to Dreyman.


Wiesler must come to grips with his part in the state's ideology and draconian measures to muzzle its population, particularly the artists, and reaches a point where he has to choose a moral path as his empathy grows for Dreyman and Sieland. How this character both changes and is changed is portrayed seamlessly, the film's most masterful accomplishment in my opinion.


The film is flawless and draws you in from the start then holds on till the end. The execution of the story is as powerful as the narrative itself, and the story feels original with very little that's predictable. Donnersmarck and the actors bring it all together with remarkable precision, so much so that, again, it feels like perfect storytelling.


Sebastian Koch (left)

Sebastian Koch and Martina Gedeck

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