The Lives Of Others


Writer/director Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck’s bravura debut wowed awards panels the world over, even pipping front-runner Pan’s Labyrinth to this year’s Best Foreign Flick Oscar. It was a different story with audiences, though. Where Del Toro’s mix of fascism and fantasy grabbed imaginations, this character piece didn’t bed into the public consciousness. DVD may redress the balance...

Set in mid-’80s East Berlin, ...Others charts the slow moral-emotional rehab of robotic Stasi operative Wiesler (the late Ulrich Mühe) via his close surveillance of communist playwright Georg (Black Book’s Sebastian Koch) and his partner, actress and politicians’ plaything Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck). The deeper Wiesler digs into the intimate details of Georg’s life, the shakier his totalitarian beliefs become.

Some have accused Von Donnersmarck of tapping into a wave of misplaced nostalgia for the bad old days of Germany’s Democratic Republic. Yet he’s unsparing in his portrayal of the Stasi (the GDR’s equivalent of the KGB) as insidious and inscrutable. True, the final act – which takes place after the fall of the Wall – isn’t quite as taut as the first two. But the exemplary performances and effortless weave of personal drama and suspense thriller resonate with a quiet power. A talent to keep tabs on, Von Donnersmarck delivers a historically and technically-enlightening chat-track. Most of the interviews are fairly standard, though Mühe’s carries extra weight given his passing. Wannabe spooks, meanwhile, will salivate over the gallery of vintage Stasi devices.


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