8/10
The impact of surveillance and control
27 September 2020
This is an excellent film. Based, no doubt, on the lived realities of thousands Germans on the other side of the Iron Curtain up until 1989.

Difficult to write about this one without spoilers - so I will keep it about the film.

What would it be like to live in a place where you know that control and surveillance, with consequences, are part of normal life? What would it be like to be one of those conducting the surveillance? The Lives of Others shows us what this place is like. We know that this place is real too - or at least was real up until 30 years ago. This film opens the door and shows us the impact this has on both sides; those watched and those watching. It isn't pretty.

The narrative arc of the story feeds our interest throughout. Symbolically - it is 1984 the year of Orwell's seminal novel of a dystopian regime; "The Party". In The Lives of Others we see how the notorious East German secret police "Stasi" go about their business. It is unpleasant. We watch Stasi Captain Weisler interogate and take apart one of his suspects and we watch him glorying in teaching trainees these brutal techniques. This is Orwell's world of 1984 made real.

Members of the (East Berlin) artistic community know they have to conform. If they don't they are blacklisted and ruined. This is clearly seen in the fall of theatrical director Albert Jeska. The paranoia of the state is so profound that even wholly loyal people are suspected simply because their loyality is seen to be too pure and perfect to be true. This is the case for Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) - a playright and close friend of the fallen Jeska. Partly because of his associates, Dreyman is detailed for deep surveillance - but he has no idea at all that he is being watched and listened to day and night.

Meanwhile, Captain Weisler and his team bug Dreyman's appartment and begin the operation. He writes and files his reports under his codename; HGW XX/7. However, as the story unfolds we find that there is more to Weisler than first meets the eye.... No spoilers!

There is a darkness that powers this movie. We perceive it and are uncomfortable knowing that this can and has happened in real-life. We see the damage. There is almost no light. We feel the awful effects through Dreyman's partner Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) who is controlled and manipulated horribly. It's deeply unpleasant.

The story builds to a crescendo. We know that we are just as powerless as Dreyman and Sieland and there is an inevitability to how this will play out.

No spoilers!!! But this movie has a quite superb ending.

This is a powerful compelling story. The acting is first class. Highly recommended.
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