BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEWS

003566Reviews & Counting
SEARCH BY TITLE # A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
The Lives of Others
DVD disk
Aug 20, 2007 By: Mathew Plale
The Lives of Others order
Director:
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Actors:
Ulrich Mhe
Sebastian Koch
Martina Gedeck

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

star Printer-Friendly version
comment
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In the mid-'80s, Germany's State Secret Police (or Stasi) kept citizens under close watch. Only a select few were allowed their "freedom." But when a high-ranking official falls for a playwright's girlfriend, their liberty is put into jeopardy.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
East Germany, 1984, only five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Heavy surveillance (wire-tapping and otherwise) clouds the lives of GDR citizens. That is, except a fortunate few, respected playwright Georg Dreyman (Koch) and his lovely, dark-haired girlfriend Christa-Maria (Gedeck) included.

The couple, as Florian Henckel von Donnersmarcks tragic The Lives of Others progresses, will unknowingly depend on the kindness of a strangerand that is what the film is about: acts of pure goodness in the most extreme of situations. Their savior-of-sorts is Stasi Hauptmann Gerd Weisler (Mhe, who faced a similar situation as Dreyman), an expert in interrogation and surveillance, assigned to know everything and spy on the couple by Minister of Culture Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme), who has a crush on the leggy Christa-Maria.

Mhes work here seems too natural to be simply a performancebut whatever you call it, brilliant must precede. His gentle blue eyes tell more of his character and the central theme of The Lives of Others than the dialogue and actions ever could. His Weisler is an inspiration, a figure that experiences such a dramatic change of heart and soul, we are reminded of Liam Neesons take on Oskar Schindler.

The Lives of Others brilliance come in its subtleties and delicate handling of the material. Its quiet moments (which there are many) are the strongest in the film. Take, for example, Weislers private scenes with his headphones as he aurally spies on the oblivious couple, quickly and quietly taking them under his wing.

Cologne-born Von Donnersmarck gives his debut screenplay and film the authenticity the story requires. He gives us a look at Germanys past and the worlds futurewithout caricatures, gimmicks, or wasteful scenes. It is a film of sheer paranoia, taking us back to 1984 {ahem}, yet remaining in 2007. The unpredictable The Lives of Others (which won this years Best Foreign Language Film Oscar) is an eerie allegory to modern times, so bathed in well-placed paranoia, it does for the Bush era what Francis Ford Coppolas The Conversation did for the post-Nixon era.

There is a bittersweet moment towards the end of The Lives of Others whereupon one character tells Weisler that the Wall has crumbled. It is not a moment of regained freedom for Weisler as it is for his co-worker. Its a realization of Why did this have to happen?--that the lives of others have been ruined and lost.
THE EXTRAS
Directors Commentary: You wont find even a momentary gap in this commentary, which Von Donnersmarck fills with great insight, from filming, research, character analysis, and even less important tidbits such as a painting in the background. A definite listen.

Interview with Director Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck (29:58): The well-spoken director speaks of his intense research, casting (particularly Mhe), the screenplay, authenticity, location shooting, and much more in this highly informative (if repetitive from the commentary) talking-head piece.

Making of(19:27): Cast and crew discuss Gabriel Yareds haunting score, the intense research involved, Germany now-and-then, and more. A fine watch, but we run into a few overlapping statements.

The 7 Deleted Scenes run with an optional director commentary and a bit less than nine minutes. As Von Donnersmarck explains, each was cut or trimmed for reason. Still, those who loved the film might want to have a glance.

And Previews.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Winner of this year's Best Foreign Language Oscar, some may instantly hold a grudge for beating Pan's Labyrinth. The Lives of Others, however, is still an absolutely stunning film, brimmed with fear, loneliness, and all that fun stuff. Worth adding to your collection.
Strikeback
Not registered? Sign-up!
Or

JoBlo's T-Shirt Shoppe | support our site... Wear Our Gear!