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Runco Staff Review - Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

By Andrew Morgen
In East Germany under the Communist regime, half of the populace was spying on the other half. This was carried out by a network of informers and bureaucrats called the Ministerium fur Staatssicherheit, which in typical German fashion, was commonly shortened to "Stasi."

The Stasi were experts at interrogation, intimidation, and covert surveillance. The Lives of Others is the fictional story of Gerd Wiesler, one of the Stasi's best operatives, as he investigates Georg Dreyman, a prominent playwright and author. In the course of this investigation, both men are changed in profound ways.

Too often in films and books, people who live under oppressive regimes are classified in one of two ways: someone is either a downtrodden member of the population who rises against the oppressor, or a member of the bureaucracy who does the oppressing - but who doesn't really believe, and is usually just in it for personal gain. This ignores the fact that in many cases, people were true believers. In this film, Wiesler is a true believer.

He spends his days in an attic above Dreyman's apartment, listening to another man's life and reporting on his activities. Dreyman's life is full of love, friends and art. Wiesler spends his nights in a stark socialist apartment, a place with no personal touches, where even the couch looks hard and unwelcoming.

One day, Wiesler hears Dreyman play a piano piece in memory of his dead friend, "Sonata for a Good Man" (which was composed especially for this film), and something changes inside him. He comes to the realization that these people, whom he has been taught to regard as enemies or "others," have lives of worth and meaning and deserve to be protected from oppression.

Shot in muted grays and pale greens, the film highlights the beauty of the spirit in spite of bleak surroundings and would look spectacular on a Runco LightStyle LS-5 1080p DLP projector. There is no shouting in this film. All communication is in normal conversational tones, whether one is discussing Berthold Brecht or the best way to break a prisoner.

This film ultimately shows that all humans, no matter their circumstances, have free will and the opportunity to affect the lives of others.

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