February 20, 2007

The Good German

Not that Good German. One of the best films of 2006 is The Lives of Others.

This German production nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film is about East Germany's secret police (the Stasi) and their obsessive surveillance of artists, intellectuals and other citizens through the use of thousands of informants, prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The story is effectively told from the point of view of Hauptmann (Captain) Gerd Wiesler, who, due to a superior's petty desires, is tasked to investigate a prominent playwright and his actress girlfriend. In a storyline reminscent of Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451, Wiesler becomes drawn into the rich lives of his targets, which causes him to question East Germany's oppressive socialist system, and his own role in it.

What is so astounding about The Lives of Others is that it accomplishes all this and creates a riveting story almost entirely through internal psychological means. Most notably, the story is stripped down and told through the wide, expressive eyes of Wiesler, who, throughout the film, is clad in a ski parka that is as grey and oppressive as the country in which he lives. The film's somber color tones match this mood and help to create an atmosphere of claustrophobia and paranoia. While watching The Lives of Others, I kept thinking what it would have been like if it had been made in Hollywood. There would have been shootings. There would have been car chases. There would have been choreographed martial arts combat scenes. In short, we would have had another deafening installment of The Bourne Identity. Instead, The Lives of Others demonstrates how less can be so much more.


At 8:50 AM, Blogger Dsquared said...

I've heard wonderful things about this movie. Can't wait to see it. Your review was terrific and whets my appetite even more. Thanks.

P.S. The link is my old blogger account. My current blog is here


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