Idol Chatter

livesofothers_idol.jpg“The Live of Others” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film last year for its haunting but restrained depiction of life in East Berlin in the 1980s before the Berlin Wall crumbled. Yes, that means you have to deal with reading subtitles and a slow-moving plot, but trust me, it’s worth the extra effort. “The Lives of Others” is a thoughtful portrayal of oppression of the soul, and it is my DVD pick for this week.
The action of the movie consists primarily of one Stasi (secret police) agent monitoring (via elaborate wiretapping) the lives of a playwright and his actress lover. The Stasi are lead to believe–by a corrupt East German official–that the playwright is worthy of surveillance because he has connections to other subversive, revolutionary artists who the Stasi would like to arrest. But as time goes by, the agent becomes more and more caught up in the couple’s lives. As his conscience is awakened, he makes a choice that permanently changes the lives of the couple as well as his own.

While the movie can be overwrought and heavy-handed at times, the film has some powerful thematic elements. Certainly, censorship and persecution in Germany have been covered in other films, but “The Lives of Others” does a fantastic job of revealing the smaller, daily ways that a godless, totalitarian society destroys the human spirit, leaving no hope or moral compass.
And while there are some small moments of grace throughtout the film and an ending that is meant to be redemptive, I think that perhaps the point of this film is that these moments of grace and redemption are not always enough to change a person or a country. And, in this, the film also rings true: It takes more than human grace and kindness to save a soul or turn the tide of cultural philosophy.
And if you want to know more about the film, go here and here for two other interesting, smart–but completely different–perspectives on the film.

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