The Lives of Others Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 7, 2007
Reminded me of Terry Gilliams's Brazil but with none of the the fantasy elements. And a lot more somber. Somberer. (?)

Any one else get that?

Also, one of the best last lines ever.
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2010
Detailing the lives of those in the Communist controlled GDR, "The Lives of Others" succinctly shows the humanism of those in the Stasi (secret German police). While most dystopian texts and films deal with the fight between the enemy (government) and the hunted (citizens) this film deals more in showing how all people were oppressed by this form of Communism, and the lengths this government took in silencing dissenters. It created a blatant, all-encompassing fear among its people as well. The characters have complex motivations for their actions: the playwright loves his country but is touched by its darkness when his friend is blacklisted, his girlfriend has a drug addiction and needs the help of a high ranking official, and the culture minister uses government resources for personal reasons under a veil of socialist reform. The transformation of the main character from a detached and yet passionate government worker, into a fully realized dissenter, is shown throughout the course of the film. The irony of the events, and the interconnected evolution of each character's feelings towards their country, shape the film's narrative. Much of this film remains gripping if not subtle in its depictions. Not only will you learn quite a bit about the operational exploits of the Stasi, but the true feelings of oppression exhibited by the main characters.
Super Reviewer
½ January 11, 2012
Before going Hollywood with The Tourist, writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck delivered the goods with this stellar Cold War drama.

The time is 1984. The place is East Germany. Our protagonist is a member of the Stasi, or State Secret Police. His job is to constantly monitor the activities of whoever he is told to. And he does, being the consummate professional that he is. Things start to get iffy though when he is assigned to monitor a playright who has a reputation for being a staunch pro-Communist...especially when the revelations he uncovers have major consequences for lots of people, including himself.

I really loved this one. It's weird for me to say that too, because surveillance and bugging, and all of that creeps me out. The world of paranoia and secrecy is quite fascinating though, especially here since this is a period piece rooted in interesting history.

The film is subtle, quiet, intelligent, and really rewarding for the patient. It's also gorgeous in its look, mood, tone, atmosphere, and art direction/set design. It is a thriller, bbut not the slam bang wall -to-wall action type, and that's what I liked about it. Yeah, there's some development lacking with some of the characters, but overall this is still a marvelous piece of work with some tremendous acting, good ideas, and great subject matter.

Definitely give this one a look. It's not going to be for all tastes, but if you enjoyed something like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, then you'll probably enjoy this one as well.
Super Reviewer
½ May 24, 2007
A member of the East German secret police who is investigating a famous playwright and suspected subversive grows ever more sympathetic towards the people he is spying upon when faced with the everyday pressures of the oppressive regime he represents. Although touted as a "thriller", anyone expecting car chases and shoot-outs from The Lives Of Others will be gravely disappointed. It's a far more intellectual exercise that examines the meaning of freedom and its intimate link with personal privacy, something violated with impunity by The Stasi in the post war years of communist Germany. The story begins showing Ulrich Mühe's character as not an evil man, but a joyless, officious bureaucrat who truly believes in what he is doing. It is only when he is faced with the reality of the invasive system he is a part of that he begins to question the validity of his activities; especially when it becomes obvious that the accusations were made by a corrupt superior out of sexual jealousy and a colleague who sees the ruination of an obviously decent couple as a mere means to furthering his own career. Very nicely shot and performed, It's a thoughtful and beautifully crafted story that exercises the brain rather than the adrenaline gland and is all the more rewarding for it.
Super Reviewer
October 27, 2012
Chilling and powerful. Yes -- it's in German. Get over it.
Super Reviewer
December 22, 2008
A good film, true story??? But it shows how the GDR was like before the wall came down. Great acting, Had to pat attention and read the subtitles. Glad I rented it, didn't like it at first as it was slow, but after about 45 min I was stuck to the TV. 6-28-12
Super Reviewer
March 12, 2009
A film with everything: natural, honest intrigue; freedom of speech questions; a heart-rending love story; a spooky soundtrack; fantastic acting (by Ulrich Muhe), and more. The tension is high from the beginning, and it comes from the institutionalized paranoia that comes with the main character's task: spying and reporting on a writer who, though he's long been a friend to the state, may finally have a reason to go West and speak out. So much comes together in the end of this film, and you won't mind its flashes forward as it wraps up: they're really the only way out. The film is so deep in its moment, you forget that there is a way out, that a society need not operate this way, with surveillance and secret police and what not. An excellent period piece that's essential viewing, one of the best European films I've ever seen.
paul o.
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2011
A modern-day perfection of The Conversation! The story is touching and strikes you with a back slap of emotion! Watch this if you're a fan of cinema in general!
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2011
The Lives Of Others is a film that mesmerizes with its excellent rendition of history pre-Germany and the intellectual resistance in East Germany. A surprising and insightful multifaceted political drama thriller that continuously rewards its audience with genius plot elements and development. A film crafted from wisdom and ideologies, The Lives Of Others is an intelligent masterful work of a genius. Extraordinary.
Super Reviewer
½ May 4, 2011
Awfully awesome. I specifically liked the way the movie is set, and the performance of its lead character Wiesler. Of course, it has some minor flaws, but one should overlook that. After all, I can't be available for everyone everywhere all the time (yeah, even being omnipresent doesn't suffice).
Super Reviewer
April 3, 2011
An East German surveillance officer grows to question the GDR regime as he stalks a writer and his actress girlfriend.
They say the highest form of flattery is imitation, but I think it's a pretty high compliment to quote someone. So, here is part of what aliceinpunderland wrote about this film: "Ulrich Muhe's stone-face is so quietly complex. I love the scene in the elevator with the little boy. After the boy blithely mentions his father's hatred for the Stasi, Wiesler says, 'What's the name of your...ball?' subtly marking his moral and ethical turning point from stoic agent of Stasi surveillance - and in a sense, criminal justice - to impassioned man, in love with celebrated stage actress, Christa Sieland - both her person and what she represents: the freedom that comes with embodying someone else." I couldn't agree more. Muhle's subtle performance is the highlight of this political drama set a half-decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
I thought it got a little slow in the second act, and perhaps it can be blamed on the language barrier, but I found some difficulty keeping up with Sieland's comings and goings and whom she was coming and going with (mostly coming).
Overall, though, The Lives of Others is a tense, powerful drama, and you won't be disappointed.
Super Reviewer
½ May 15, 2007
Dull in color, yet rich in compelling intrigues. On the surface, it looks like a pretty dreary film, but once you start watching, you'll soon discover that it's anything but. I don't know much about the politics the reigned in East Germany back in 1984, but it's quite scary to think that, less than 30 years ago, they had a secret police that exercised torture and privacy-intruding surveillance. I'm thankful I've never had to live through anything like that, and I hope I never will. In any case, this is a splendid drama-thriller from Germany, with superb direction and constantly high suspense. So should you ever be in the mood for an engaging story, that wasn't penned in Hollywood, this is one such alternative I can strongly recommend. Wirklich sehr gut!
Super Reviewer
January 9, 2011
An andante-paced thriller about sociopolitical headgames encroaching on intellectual property. Ulrich Muhe's stone-face is so quietly complex. I love the scene in the elevator with the little boy. After the boy blithely mentions his father's hatred for the Stasi, Wiesler says, "What's the name of your...ball?" subtly marking his moral and ethical turning point from stoic agent of Stasi surveillance - and in a sense, criminal justice - to impassioned man, in love with celebrated stage actress, Christa Sieland - both her person and what she represents: the freedom that comes with embodying someone else.
Super Reviewer
October 10, 2010
A superb, brilliant, magnificent, masterpiece of a film. One of the best I've ever seen. A brilliant story about an East German secret policeman who gets transformed by "The Lives of Others" he is supposed to be monitoring, and in the end he gives up his career in an attempt to spare them from their inevitable fate. I went into this film not knowing anything about it. What I found was a truly remarkable and touching story. Ulrich Muhe as Wiesler and Sebastian Koch as Dreyman stand out as part of the brilliant cast. Also, the music in this film was absolutely fantastic, some of the best music i've heard in any film. It really adds to the intense moments of the film.

I'm a huge Pan's Labyrinth fan and was very dissapointed that it didn't receive the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006, but after viewing this film, I was blown away. This film deserved every amount of praise it got. You absolutely MUST see this film!
Super Reviewer
½ October 19, 2010
So tough to pull off long sustained periods of tension in a movie but The Lives of Others does it over and over again. The performances of the primary actors are so real and believable against the period piece landscape that it's impossible to dissociate the dramatic storyline from a time & place that's easy to forget this side of the Berlin Wall. It's dark, it's deep, and it's sexy. Open up netflix in another tab, I'll wait.
Super Reviewer
½ January 6, 2009
"It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself" -Betty Friedan

(Doesn't Ulrich Mühe remind you of Kevin Spacey?)

The Lives of Others chronicles one man's awakening and his transition from Stasi loyalist to compassionate human being. Director Florian Donnersmarck, along with such contemporaries as Oliver Hirschbiegel and Wolfgang Petersen, continues the trend of German film makers who are proving themselves enormously apt at honest self-reflection. This is one gutsy and remarkable film.
Super Reviewer
September 16, 2007
A masterfully constructed, expertly acted, and completely enamoring story of a Stasi officer in East-Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall and how he puts his career on the line for an up-and-coming artist who is suspected of dealing with the West. Not for all tastes, but if you're an art-house film fan, this is definitely for you. Ulrich Muhe (who died shortly after this movie was made) gives what is required of him, which is a subtle but gripping performance. Not many actors can go two and a half hours and say so little but still have your attention throughout (Richard Jenkins' performance in "The Visitor" comes to mind), but Muhe's character is completely convincing. One of the best films of 2006 without question (although admittedly I still think "The Departed" and "Children of Men" are slightly better films), and one that should definitely be seen.
Super Reviewer
½ March 18, 2008
Sure it's "East Berlin" before the wall came down, but it's 1984!

Call me nieve but it really blew my mind that this type of thing was going on still at that late date. But I guess it's still going on (to some extent) in many countries.

An interesting peek at the seedy underbelly that always seems to taint the otherwise idealistic fundamentals of Socialism and a gentle reminder of just how much we (Capitalists) took/take for granted.

This was a really good story told in a very subtle (yet powerful) way, by an exceptional cast and director.

Having said this...I still think that Pan's Labyrinth was the more (all around)impressive film (of that year) and more worthy of the Oscar win.
Super Reviewer
June 11, 2007
The Lives Of Others is stunning! A film not to be missed, one of the best of 2006.
Super Reviewer
October 1, 2009
A fantastic film! Easily the best I?ve seen in a long time. Everything about this film is sublime, its perfect! The ending has to be in my top 10 best of all time. Highly recommended!
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