The Lives of Others is a German-language movie about East Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall. The movie focuses on three individuals: Georg, an author who is initially devoted to the state, but eventually finds that the state is a dead end, Christa his actress girlfriend, and the Stasi policeman, Gerd, who is sent to bug Georg’s apartment. The movie received an academy award and deserves it. The plot is emotionally intense and well played.
This is a psychological movie. There aren’t any fabulous chase scenes or shootouts. In fact, the movie is about a single word, freedom. It asks the question, “How much is state safety worth compared to the freedom of living one’s life as one sees fit?” The movie answers the question by showing Georg risking his life to write articles for the West that show the state’s policies for what they are—the evil desires of a few corrupt individuals. It also shows Christa committing suicide and Gerd giving up a comfy position, all to protect Georg from the state. Both come to believe in what Georg is doing and are willing to die to obtain their freedom from extreme repression.
I can honestly say that I stayed focused throughout the movie because it has a lot to say, the actors do their jobs well. Actually, it has a lot to say to Americans who think that giving the state more power to make them safe is a good idea. Every time our government allows yet another freedom robbing bill to pass, I know we’re taking yet another step toward the sort of repression this movie presents.
Some people will find the scenes of torture during the movie hard to deal with. No, there aren’t any incidents of waterboarding or other physical cruelty. All of the torture depicted is of the psychological variety. I’m sure the actual torture techniques were far worse. Still, the way in which the torture is presented will almost certainly offend some people.
There are a few minor nits with this movie. The movie is in German, so I needed to watch with subtitles on, which isn’t a problem for me. However, some of the subtitles flashed by so fast that I had to go back and replay them in order to keep up with the movie. I also found a few of the scene transitions a little hard to follow. There was at least one scene where I lost track of where the actors are. It turned out that they were in Georg’s apartment—I had thought at first they might be somewhere else.
Overall, this is an excellent movie—well worth the time I invested viewing it. I don’t know that this is something I would watch very often and I’d have to be in the right mood to watch it again, but I did think that it’s worth at least one viewing and it has quite a lot to say. This is a movie of high social value and not very long on entertainment. It’s a thought provoking movie that more people should watch if for no other reason than to consider just how bad things could become if we don’t safeguard our freedoms.