The Lives of Others

2006

The Lives of Others

Critics Consensus

Unlike more traditional spy films, The Lives of Others doesn't sacrifice character for cloak and dagger chases, and the performances (notably that by the late Ulrich Muhe) stay with you.

93%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 160

96%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 121,565
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Movie Info

A man who has devoted his life to ferreting out "dangerous" characters is thrown into a quandary when he investigates a man who poses no threat in this drama, the first feature from German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. It's 1984, and Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is an agent of the Stasi, the East German Secret Police. Weisler carefully and dispassionately investigates people who might be deemed some sort of threat to the state. Shortly after Weisler's former classmate, Lt. Col. Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur), invites him to a theatrical piece by celebrated East German playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme) informs Weisler that he suspects Dreyman of political dissidence, and wonders if this renowned patriot is all that he seems to be. As it turns out, Hempf has something of an ulterior motive for trying to pin something on Dreyman: a deep-seated infatuation with Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), Dreyman's girlfriend. Nevertheless, Grubitz, who is anxious to further his career, appoints Weisler to spy on the gentleman with his help. Weisler plants listening devices in Dreyman's apartment and begins shadowing the writer. As Weisler monitors Dreyman's daily life, however (from a secret surveillance station in the gentleman's attic), he discovers the writer is one of the few East Germans who genuinely believes in his leaders. This changes over time, however, as Dreyman discovers that Christa-Maria is being blackmailed into a sexual relationship with Hempf, and one of Dreyman's friends, stage director Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert), is driven to suicide after himself being blackballed by the government. Dreyman's loyalty thus shifts away from the East German government, and he anonymously posts an anti-establishment piece in a major newspaper which rouses the fury of government officials. Meanwhile, Weisler becomes deeply emotionally drawn into the lives of Dreyman and Sieland, and becomes something of an anti-establishment figure himself, embracing freedom of thought and expression. A major box-office success in Germany, Das Leben der Anderen (aka The Lives of Others) received its North American premiere at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast

Martina Gedeck
as Christa-Maria Sieland
Sebastian Koch
as Georg Dreyman
Ulrich Tukur
as Oberstleunant Anton Grubitz
Thomas Thieme
as Minister Bruno Hempf
Hans-Uwe Bauer
as Paul Hauser
Ulrich Mühe
as Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler
Herbert Knaup
as Gregor Hessenstein
Volkmar Kleinert
as Albert Jerska
Matthias Brenner
as Karl Wallner
Thomas Arnold
as Benedikt Lehmann
Werner Daehn
as Einsatzleiter in Uniform
Marie Gruber
as Frau Meineke
Martin Brambach
as Officer Meyer
Hinnerk Schonemann
as Unterleutnant Axel Stigler
Hubertus Hartmann
as Egon Schwalber
Bastian Trost
as Häftling 227
Paul Faßnacht
as Uncle Frank Hauser
Michael Gerber
as Doctor Czimmy
Fabian von Kiltzing
as News Presenter
Sheri Hagen
as Martha in 1991
Gitta Schweighöfer
as Anja in 1984
Hildegard Schroedter
as Elena in 1984
Inga Birkenfeld
as Elena in 1991
Philipp Kewenik
as Man Arresting Christa
Jens Wassermann
as "Rolf" Andi Wenzke-Falkenau
Kai Ivo Baulitz
as Bookseller
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Critic Reviews for The Lives of Others

All Critics (160) | Top Critics (54) | Fresh (148) | Rotten (12)

  • The Lives of Others is exquisitely tense, with massive stakes and a pervasive sense of danger.

    Jul 1, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • The Lives of Others is a powerful but quiet film, constructed of hidden thoughts and secret desires.

    Sep 21, 2007 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Few films have dared paint East Germany and its legions of demons in such honest and unsparing detail. Von Donnersmarck puts a pickaxe into the past.

    Apr 21, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • This fierce and gloomy drama, written and directed by first-timer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, was a notable winner of this year's best foreign film Oscar.

    Apr 14, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • ... you just cannot help but watch...

    Apr 10, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film is a melodrama in a minor key, quietly affecting, quietly chilling, quietly quiet. It captures the drab architecture of totalitarianism, the soul-dead buildings of a soul-dead state.

    Mar 16, 2007 | Rating: 5/5

Audience Reviews for The Lives of Others

  • Mar 12, 2017
    The intersection of art, politics, and surveillance here is profoundly interesting. Ultimately not a historical chronicle of East Germany, but a story about the inevitable failure of all totalitarian regimes which, despite much of the film's depressing plot, makes it quite hopeful.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 18, 2016
    The depth and poignancy of The Lives of Others makes it an unforgettable masterpiece, and this film is nothing less than one of the best I've ever seen. Kudos to the late Ulrich Muhe for his performance of a lifetime.
    Maymay A Super Reviewer
  • May 23, 2013
    "The Lives of Others" is not the espionage action-thriller I had been led to believe it was. There is a great deal of tension to be found in some of its sequences, but for the most part, director/writer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck avoids the tired shootouts and car chases in favor of well-written characters and thought-provoking drama. I was sad to see the characters portrayed by Ulrich Mühe and Sebastian Koch (both of whom are incredible in their roles) go. Also, "The Lives of Others" contains one of the most inspiring endings I have ever seen.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Oct 27, 2012
    Chilling and powerful. Yes -- it's in German. Get over it.
    Christian C Super Reviewer

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