Das Leben der Anderen, (\

Alana

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Hi all,

i had the feeling that i had seen references to this movie on the Forum, but a search brought no results, so i start a new thread.

My brother bought the DVD because he liked it so much, and insisted that i watch it too. I did today, and it was well spend time. It is a German movie based in East Berlin in 1984, which won a bunch of awards - deservedly i might add. You can read the synopsis in the official site, which includes a trailer and lots of info.

To me, it is an excellent portrayal of how a repressive regime can shape people's psychology, whether they are of the oppressors or those against. In 1984 the Stasi (GDR's secret police) had agents trained on how to spy the 'suspects' (anyone thought to not follow the regime's ideology) and how to extract information from them. Human psychology is shown to be a valuable tool in the hands of the agents, and so is their "research" on how to break down a suspect to talk. The story follows Gerd Weisler (who actually reminds a lot of Inspector Finch from V for Vendetta), a man who works for Stasi and is shown to be a loyal robot-like person with no life of his own, living by the rules. That changes when he is assigned to spy on a couple - Georg, a writer and his companion Christa-Maria, an actress. He seems to be discovering through them aspects of life, morality and relationships not known to him before, and against his previous beliefs. His transformation is very interesting to watch and at times i was not sure whether he would follow the Stasi code, or his own conscience; but that was true in a sense for all characters, as their actions were hard to predict. Acting is excellent, and so is the music, as well the literature/art references, which create a certain atmosphere for the audience to enter.

Here's a statement by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck:

German movies produced after the reunification generally, and strangely, depict the GDR (the German Democratic Republic or former East Germany) as funny or moving. Both my parents come from the East, so as a child, I was often in East Germany to visit friends and relatives. A cousin of my father's had been named chief of protocol of Erich Honecker, the East German head of state and boss of the ruling S.E.D party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, the Socialist Unity Party of Germany). Other people we knew had very normal jobs, yet one could see the fear in all of them, right up to the end of the regime. Fear of the Stasi (The State Security), fear of the 100,000 highly trained employees whose sights were trained on one thing: "The Lives Of Others": the lives of those who thought differently, who were too free spirited and above all, the artists and people working in the arts. Every aspect of life was recorded. There was no private sphere and nothing was sacred, not even one's closest family members. I met Stasi victims who had been jailed and harassed in Hohenschonhausen (where the central detention center of the Stasi was located). I asked "unofficial agents" about their activities and I talked to documentary filmmakers who had worked on these topics.

In the film, each character asks questions that we confront every day: how do we deal with power and ideology? Do we follow our principles or our feelings? More than anything else, THE LIVES OF OTHERS is a human drama about the ability of human beings to do the right thing, no matter how far they have gone down the wrong path.
Yep, it is very relevant in our days, where surveillance is becoming accepted by the vast majority everywhere, without understanding where it can/would lead to, or without the knowledge that this has happened so many times in the past and will do again and again, until we learn to study history and learn from it.

Anyway, this movie kept me on the edge of my sit - there's no dull or boring moment in it - and with tears on the edge of my eyes throughout. It gets 5 stars from me and i highly recommend it :)
 

Windmill knight

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Das Leben der Anderen, ("The Life of Others")

An excellent movie indeed! Quite scary and also very touching. I must confess that the very last scene (the 'epilogue') moved me to tears.

There is just one thing that left me a little unconvinced: the fact that agent Weisler is first shown as a ruthless officer and later empathizes with the couple. Kind of hard to believe that he would first be a total psychopath and then find his humane side just because the spied couple were nice people.

Apart from that detail, as I said, excellent movie!
 

webglider

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Das Leben der Anderen, ("The Life of Others")

One of the most important themes in this film seems to be the ability of certain works of art to create empathy for others. Lack of art: music, literature, drama,visual expression, seems to give rise to the sorts of various pathological behaviors that develop in both the victims and their victimizers. Those who have the ability to "grow a soul" are aided in this endeavor by their connection to the arts even in the toltalitarian world the film depicts.

Each of the characters has a "role" to play which is pretty much set by the system. Yet even in such a repressive world, people still make choices, and for some the choices result in complete transformation. For example, one can be born anew as a spiritual being, and another, by betraying the soul which has already developed, can lose it.

As I watced this movie, I thought of the increase in gang activity in the United States, the
emphasis on testing, testing, testing, and the lack of funding for the arts. Since the influence that the arts has on overall academic achievement and socialization has been demonstrated repeatedly, I can only conclude that the type of public education given to many students in the United States is to create people that will be insensitive to the needs and feelings of others.

Just as fuel crops are replacing food in the management of agriculture practicies that will result in physical death for many on this planet, the replacing of the humanistic influences will result in spiritual death for many more.
 

Approaching Infinity

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Das Leben der Anderen, ("The Life of Others")

I saw this movie recently and it was extremely moving. The last scene, as apeguia said, will move you to tears. As for Weisler's character, I too thought it was a bit unrealistic. But also, I'm remindend of the police that Lobaczewski mentions during his interrogation. He points out that many of them end up suffering from congestive dementia. That is, they are normal people engaged in ruthless work that ends up destroying them. Perhaps "Weisler" was one such person, who managed to avoid this fate.
 

Aeneas

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Das Leben der Anderen, ("The Life of Others")

Thanks for posting this review. I too gave it 5 stars and think that it is an important film to watch as the surveillance society is rapidly becoming a realitty. As for the character of the Weisler, I was pondering about it too and to how realistic it was. I was reminded of a mention by Lobaczewski(if I remember correctly) about ideologically driven people, who are not essential psychopaths, and it was clear in the film that this was his motivation in supporting it, though I wondered what took him so long to see the abuse and the nature of the higher ups, who clearly were misusing the system. The film was otherwise very realistic and very moving.
 

Alana

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Das Leben der Anderen, ("The Life of Others")

I don't think that Weisler was a total psychopath at first, as he seemed to be lacking the ruthlessness and arogance necessary to be one. He was a faithful robotoid. I saw the Weisler character as the byproduct of an environment lacking in creative expression (as webglider mentions above) and immersed in rules and fear. I recall that it was listening to the sonata on the piano and reading Brecht that touched something deeper in him, things that were not available to him before. And as he was loyal to Stasi, when his perception changed he became loyal to his new ideals. The guy had good intentions all along (those that pave the way to hell at first) and must have really believed in the ideologies of the DGR, until he was exposed something different. It was his transformation that touches normal people, because i think (and i did) we all feel it as personal victory. It's the stuff that make hope possible.

And yes, that epilogue was really touching. Very seldom one short sentence can contain so much...
 

PopHistorian

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Re: Das Leben der Anderen, (in English, "The Lives of Others")

Watched it last week. Very good indeed. Lots of subtle teachings about the workings of tyranny, thanks to years of research, first-hand interviews, and preparation by the film-maker. Right, Wiesler was a "normal" who was a true believer in the ideology and its allegedly humanitarian ends, and was blinded to everything else, until his eyes began to open with exposure to art, and to the abuses of his superiors. And Sieland was a great example of someone who turned against even her loved ones when presented with the usual blend of threats (for non-cooperation) and perks (for cooperation) by the Stasi.

What I didn't like about the film was the lack of suggestion that other agents were psychopaths that could never change, but then again, that's the usual hole in the public's awareness, isn't it? They think that virtually everyone has a conscience.

Interesting that the film-maker said it was very emotionally taxing to interview people victimized by the Stasi, whose lives had been ruined. He also said it was equally taxing to interview former Stasi agents, who spoke, not without pride and boast, about how they brought about those ruinations. He seemed mystified. He needs a copy of Ponerology!

Best line in the film comes after the Stasi completely tear up Dreyman's apartment during a search.
Stasi: "In the unlikely event of any damage, you may claim compensation." (He hands Dreyman a paper form.)
Dreyman: "I'm sure everything is in perfect order."
:lol:
That's a wonderfully subtle teaching. Under tyranny, the illusion of justice (and all other "democratic institutions") is still there, presented as if it were real, and the public sees it and must pretend (if they know better) with a straight face that the lie is true. Horrifying, and so close to home! It's clear to me now that way too many people will never admit they're living under tyranny, as long as they continue to be presented with a facade of "democratic institutions," no matter how crumbling.
 

Laura

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Re: Das Leben der Anderen, (

Ark and I watched this one last year and thought it was really good too. As Ark pointed out, that is what it is really like in such a political environment - and he should know! That is basically what the whole world is headed for...
 

Windmill knight

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As a complement to the movie, I suggest reading 'Stasiland', by Anna Funder. It's very easy to read - like a novel, but it's a series of interviews - and full of insights of what happens when the psychopathic world-view clashes with normal people's world-view.
 

Rabelais

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I just watched this. It is exceptional!!! It is now available (full version - high quality - English subs) on youtube. Search the English title, The Lives of Others. Very moving cinematography and a look at where we are headed

Alana sums it up nicely:

Alana said:
I don't think that Weisler was a total psychopath at first, as he seemed to be lacking the ruthlessness and arogance necessary to be one. He was a faithful robotoid. I saw the Weisler character as the byproduct of an environment lacking in creative expression (as webglider mentions above) and immersed in rules and fear. I recall that it was listening to the sonata on the piano and reading Brecht that touched something deeper in him, things that were not available to him before. And as he was loyal to Stasi, when his perception changed he became loyal to his new ideals. The guy had good intentions all along (those that pave the way to hell at first) and must have really believed in the ideologies of the DGR, until he was exposed something different. It was his transformation that touches normal people, because i think (and i did) we all feel it as personal victory. It's the stuff that make hope possible.

And yes, that epilogue was really touching. Very seldom one short sentence can contain so much...
.
 
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