An Insight into former East-Germany’s Stasi: Das Leben Der Anderen (2006)

Posted: March 1, 2013 in Reviews
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Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Actors: Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur

Cover of "The Lives of Others"

Yes, another German movie makes it on Moviemojoblog :-). That’s 2 in a row even. I can’t help it. It’s not like I’m doing it on purpose, but this film was on my ‘must see’ list for quite some time already and than I noticed it got an extremely high user rating on IMBD, placing it on the 61st spot on their top 250 of all time. More than enough reason not to put it off any longer… I’m glad I didn’t.

This is what it’s about: Gerd Wiesler is a cold-hearted, incorruptible captain of the East German secret police in East-Berlin during the mid-eighties. He conducts rigorous marathon- interrogations on citizens who are suspected to doubt or undermine the ideas of the Social Unity Party. He trains and screens young Stasi recruits and he monitors suspects in their homes by means of bugs, wires and cameras. One day he is ordered to find incriminating evidence against a well-known and respected play-writer, Georg Dreyman. Dreyman’s girlfriend is a famous theater actress who is being courted by a corrupt minister, Bruno Hempf, of the Social Party. Hempf knows she is involved with Dreyman and that in order to get her, he needs to get Dreyman out of the way. Since Dreyman is part of a high profile circle of writers and artists, and thus knows many dissidents, free-thinkers and possible enemies, Hempf believes he can be found guilty of something and be put away.

When Wiesler finds out that this is the actual reason why he is asked to watch Dreyman, he starts to slack for the first time. And when he actually finds some serious incriminating evidence against him, he faces a difficult dilemma. Obey the corrupt minister, or help the lovers.

Das Leben der Anderen is yet another German masterpiece that effortlessly claims its place among other German modern classics like Lola Rennt, Gegen die Wand, Das Boot and Der Untergang. It’s the story of a man who’s faith in a rigid system start to crumble, a system he served, in an almost robotic way, for most of his life. It gives a detailed insight into the methods used by the Stasi and how far they went to obtain personal information, or to quote Dreyman: “The state office for statistics counts everything; knows everything: how many pairs of shoes I buy a year: 2.3, how many books I read a year: 3.2 and how many students graduate with perfect marks: 6,347. But there’s one statistic that isn’t collected there, perhaps because such numbers cause even paper-pushers pain: and that is the suicide rate.” Privacy was non-existent in those days.

Das Leben der Anderen was the debut of director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (could a name sound any more German?). It scooped up both the BAFTA and the Oscar for best foreign movie in 2006. I didn’t even know that when I watched it, but it makes complete sense, it’s a real ‘must-see’.


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