Hagen Kelle
Jeff Labrecque
August 24, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Lives of Others

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
137 minutes
Limited Release Date
02/09/07
performer
Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Muhe
director
Florian Henckel
distributor
Sony Pictures Classics
author
Florian Henckel
genre
Drama, Foreign Language

We gave it an A

It is 1984, and Big Brother is very real in East Germany, where Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), a dedicated member of the Stasi secret police, is consumed by hunting traitors. But when the stoic bureaucrat investigates noted playwright Dreyman and his actress girlfriend (Sebastian Koch and Martina Gedeck), the seemingly soulless man experiences a moral awakening. While eavesdropping on the couple’s every word, kiss, and song, Wiesler finds his devotion to a decaying system challenged by the passion of the artists. ”Can anyone who has heard this music,” asks Dreyman from his piano, ”I mean truly heard it — really be a bad person?” For Mühe, who had been shadowed by the Stasi in the 1980s, making the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others was an extremely personal experience. His performance is a study in artful stillness, yet there’s amazing intensity in his calculated efficiency. Tragically, the actor, who died of cancer in July, ”couldn’t really enjoy all the success that we had with this film because he encountered so much hatred in Germany…for having spoken about his own past,” says director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in an enlightening commentary. For those truly listening, however, Mühe’s creation is an enduring achievement. A

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