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My favourite film of 2007,
This review is from: The Lives of Others [DVD]  (DVD)The Lives Of Others(Or Leben der Anderen Das) is my favourite film of 2007. I have seen it twice now and on the first time viewing thought it a compelling but rather static film. However having watched it again recently i have now come to the conclusion that the film is a superbly conceived discreet masterpiece.
What is truly remarkable about The Lives Of Others is that for a film running for 137 minutes it is very light on plot. For great swathes of the narrative nothing really propels the film forward but it still retains a mesmeric fascination. Set in East Germany in 1984 it tells the story of Stasis officer Wiesler( Urich Muhe) who is designated by his supercilious superior Grubitz( (Ulrich Tukur) to set up surveillance on playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch). Their reasons for doing so are flimsy at best ,based more on supposition than anything and an instinctive mistrust of artists.
Dreyman is having an affair with an actress Christa -Maria( Martina Gedeck) working on his latest production who is also lusted after by the repellent Minister Bruno Hempf ( Thomas Thieme). As Wiesler spends hours, sat in a dingy attic surrounded by his surveillance equipment, diligently logging every conversation he hears in Drayman's flat he gradually changes his affiliation towards the couple and this leads to an inexorable shift in his perception of the political system he works for. Eventually he neglects to mention incriminating evidence in his logs and as it becomes clear Dreyman is indeed implicated in activity that would have him marked out as an enemy of the state Weiss resorts to methods increasingly dangerous to himself in order to cover up for him. What ultimately transpires is full of tragedy and pathos and the final scene is a beautifully composed and moving testament to how one mans actions can have a resounding influence on the destiny of another.
First time director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck who wrote the script as well does a remarkable job of portraying the austerity and paranoia in East Germany at that time. The film is shot in muted tones to reflect this with Wiesler always dressed in grey and hunched into himself to reflect his myopic world view. Urich Muhe gives a superb performance as Weisler, reining himself in to express everything through his slightly craggy visage and effusive eyes as his character realises the futility and melancholy of his existence, though it must be said all the cast acquit themselves admirably.
The Lives Of Others is imbued with various themes-love, faith, loyalty, deception, redemption sacrifice( And others I'm probably not perceptive enough to notice) and has numerous scenes that stay with the viewer. Apart from the fantastic final scene the one where Weisler steaming open envelopes hears of the fall of the wall and just gets up and walks out of the room without saying a word is especially memorable. A great film all the better for it's quiet subtlety and understated gradations , a lesson many other film makers could do with taking notice of.