The Lives of Others
Drama | German with English subtitles | 137 minutes
In 1984 East Germany, Stasi agent Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler is ordered to spy on the playwright Georg Dreyman, who is suspected of bad-mouthing the Communist regime. Wiesler and his team bug Dreyman’s apartment and begin thorough surveillance of his activities. Wiesler becomes disturbed about this investigation when he learns Dreyman was singled out because Bruno Hempf, the Minister of Culture, is smitten with Dreyman’s live-in girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland. Wiesler now becomes sympathetic to the couple. When Dreyman’s friend, Albert Jerska, a blacklisted theatrical director, hangs himself, Dreyman writes an anonymous article in Der Spiegel accusing the state of concealing its high suicide rate. On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall falls. Wiesler leaves his office realizing that his career is over. At the Stasi Records Agency, Dreyman reviews the files pertaining to his investigation. He finds out that Stasi Officer HGW XX/7 (Wiesler) concealed Dreyman’s activities including his authorship of the suicide article. Years later, Wiesler, now a postman, passes a bookstore displaying Dreyman’s new novel. Wiesler is deeply touched when he reads the book’s dedication: “To HGW XX/7, in gratitude.”
Why Stream This Film?
As film critic A.O. Scott wrote in his New York Times review, “The film poses a stark, difficult question–how does a good man act in circumstances that seem to rule out the possibility of decent behavior?–it illuminates not only a shadowy period in recent German history, but also the moral no man’s land where base impulses and high principles converge.”
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 93%
- Metacritic Score: 89
- Academy Awards: Winner, Best Foreign Language Film
- BAFTA Awards: Winner, Best Film Not in the English Language
- New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Winner, Best Foreign Language Film
- César Awards: Winner, Best Foreign Film
- Film Independent Spirit Awards: Winner, Best Foreign Film
Now streaming on:
Like the omnipresent tentacles of East Germany’s onetime secret police, THE LIVES of OTHERS grips like a boa constrictor. Superbly cast drama, centered on a loyal Stasi officer and a writer he spies on just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, is a socko feature debut by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
THE LIVES of OTHERS is suspenseful, ethically exacting drama, beautifully realized by the writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
THE LIVES of OTHERS is a powerful but quiet film, constructed of hidden thoughts and secret desires.
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