I went to see The Lives of Others yesterday. This is without a doubt the best film I have seen for ages. It kept me on the end of my seat with suspense. The action takes place in East Germany. A playwright is being targetted by the Stasi for several reasons, one of which is that his girlfriend is coveted by someone high up in the State Police and he wants the writer out of the way. We watch in horror as the apartment is bugged and this couple’s most intimate details are documented and scrutinised. Weisler is the Stasi agent who is given the task of spying on the couple. He is presented as an automaton, a soulless agent of the state who is so good at his job that he is teaching future Stasi agents. Weisler’s apartment reflects his persona, it is devoid of any embellishment or personal detail. He is a man who never smiles or has any ‘human’ qualities.
Weisler is about to come into contact with a very human couple in Georg and Christina Maria. Georg is a playwright and Christina Maria is his leading actress as well as his lover. Weisler’s spying on them allows him to glimpse their intimate lives and he begins to be more than professionally interested. When Georg’s friend commits suicide he begins to write an article for Der Speigel about the suicide rates in East Germany. In one of the many moving scenes in the film Weisler listens in as Georg plays a sonata for his dead friend, the sonata is entitled ‘Sonata for a Good Man’. The haunting and beautiful music reaches Weisler and we see him feel emotion for what may be the first time. He responds by covering up the fact the Georg is writing the article. This leads to immense complications and many breathless moments for the viewers. The lives of these two men are inextricably intertwined and lead to a stunning finale. I won’t give the ending away here but I will tell you that this is must see cinema without the trite ending that we expect in Hollywood . Although the ending is not typical it is uplifting, which frankly after begin dragged through the ugly world of East Germany, I really needed. The film really documents the ways that an inhumane system creates inhumane people and it shows how a society devoid of free speech crushes its subjects. The redemptive power of literature, art and music is the beauty of this film. This Orwellian nightmare is all the more poignant because we know that people actually lived this way. Another link to Orwell is the fact that the novel is set in 1984.
Go and see this film!