Monday, September 20, 2010

The Lives of Others


I finally got around to seeing The Lives of Others tonight. A scant 3 years after it won an Oscar for Best Foreign Picture. You can never be too late to a party I suppose.

The movie takes place in East Berlin during the year 1984. The Socialist Republic of E. Berlin is controlled by the Stasi. The Stasi were a secret police who maintained order through a vast spy and informant network, often composed of the republic's citizens. It has become famous through the sheer amount of paperwork that was preserved. Every t crossed and i dotted. In this society of stifling bureaucracy and observation we follow the lives of two artists who have just been placed under surveillance.

The story is incredibly quiet and subdued, often feeling stifling in it's tension. You spend so much of the story just waiting for something to explode you begin to ache. Movies like this are fantastic in the perspective they place on our own lives. Some parts of the movie feel so close to something we can reach out and touch. This tangible evil at the edge of our periphery. You feel claustrophobic at times because you understand what this would be like. You can perceive the surveillance and pressure. This is McCarthyism or Witch Hunts. This is a story that repeats itself over and over.

Lives of Others is a fantastic exploration of the grey in a black and white society; an examination of what happens when someone who identifies so strongly with Black or White finds himself in the middle. There is a beautiful section when one of the leads wonders if someone can hear, really hear, a beautiful piece of music are they really that bad of a person? The film has every element there to be this German apologist period flick about an especially bleak time in humanity but what it ends up being is this quiet nuanced story about finding beauty and in that finding yourself.

We all come with a hole in ourselves. We spend our lives trying to fill that void with anything that'll plug it up. Some of the choices we make are good and some are bad. To fill that empty space with something lovely, something that feels good is the only way to really do it. This movie is about filling voids with beauty, about understanding the choices we make to complete ourselves.

1 comment:

nickpiecoro said...

great stuff. more movie reviews, please.