"The Lives of Others" (2006)
I would venture to say that most all who read this particular blog have never seen the movie mentioned in the title. Why is that? Let me suggest a reason. It is a German movie and unless one speaks the language one is most likely not inclined to view a two-plus hour movie reading sub-titles. This, I contend, is a great loss to moviegoers everywhere. I would rank this movie up in the top ten of all movies I’ve ever seen, not only for the acting, directing, cinematography and story-line, but also for the spiritual implications under-lying the entire story. And, by the way, when reading sub-titles one never has to lean over to his spouse and ask, “what did he say?”
This is a story set in East Berlin several years prior to the fall of the wall...1984. I’m not sure if the 1984 setting is intended in the Orwellian sense by the producers and directors or not...but it does certainly come to mind during the course of this movie. The “Stasi’s” (state security) goal is to “know everything”..about everyone. Society seems to be made up of only informers and those under continual surveillance. Such is the case with the subjects of this movie. We follow the lives of Captain Gerd Wiesler and his 24/7 surveillance of suspected subversive writer Georg Dreyman and his live-in girl friend actress Christa Marie Sieland.
Something strange begins to happen to Hauptman (Capt) Wiesler during the process of observing the lives of Dreyman and his girl friend. You’ve heard the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”; this movie disproves the universality of that adage and in fact shows that “familiarity breeds compassion” in some. Wiesler’s lack of a life of his own begins a process of vicarious living through the lives of the others he is watching. Yogi Berra’s proverb, “you can observe a lot just by watching” is more apropos than the former. Now, I am not going to do a comprehensive review of this movie. I think it is a great movie and I would recommend that you rent it, buy it, find someone who has it, seek it out and view it. You will not be disappointed. In fact, you will be enriched.
What I find even more fascinating in this movie are the similarities of the processes of God’s unfolding redemption. In one scene Dreyman’s girl friend is offered life abundantly by the “Stasi” if she will only serve their cause and become an informant against Dreyman. So, for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver and grave consequences if she doesn’t, she agrees. In the end her demise is similar to her counter-part, Judas. It is a moving and gripping scene near the end of this movie. Also, throughout the movie the one electronically watching over Dreyman (literally, from the attic of the apartment building) has compassion and falsifies his reports to cover a multitude of sins on the part of his subjects. Eventually, because of the betrayal of his girl friend Dreyman is about to be discovered for his lack of loyalty to the government system and only at the last second is his unfaithfulness covered by the one watching from above.
Finally the wall came down which separated the two divided countries and peace and freedom flourishes. Re-unification is achieved and democracy thrives. Yet, one haunting unanswered question still remains in the mind of Dreyman. Why was surveillance never put on his activities? Only in a providential conversation with the former Stasi Head of Security after the fall of the wall does he discover that every inch of his apartment was bugged with electronic devices. Then...why was he not found out? This event begins a search by him of “Stasi” records to determine just who it was that overlooked his subversive activities. Who was this that had such compassion on him and his friends? The final scene of the movie shows the newly found gratitude Dreyman had for the one who so many times and for nothing in return, unknown to Dreyman until now, had come to his rescue. It is the most moving moment in the entire movie. It is remindful, to me, of the song we sang in Sunday’s worship service:
“Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe,
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.”
(this movie won the Oscar in 2007 for Best Foreign Language Film and in Germany the equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture, Ulrich Mülhe for Best Actor for his portrayal of Gerd Wiesler and Ulrich Tukur for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Wiesler’s boss) Ich liebe "Das Leben der Anderen"