REVIEW: The Lives of Others / Das Leben der Anderen
February 19, 2007
Telling the film of two starkly different lives ‘The Lives of Others’ delves into the story of an artist and a secret police agent in East Germany.
Besides the setting you can nearly imagine that this remarkable story could be set anywhere from a fictional Orwellian to the modern-day China, or even in the US when Hollywood was scrutinised, in search of possible Communists during the Cold War. However, the cold and very much realistic setting of the Soviet-style concrete building is unmistakable and inescapable.
The opening sequences sets the tone, switching between a recorded integration and a secret police training college, a student questions the accuracy of the integration results and the lecturer then quietly marks an ‘x’ beside his name in the class roll roster.
In one of the dictatorship States’, the few trusted and many non-blacklisted artists, especially a playwright director (Sebastian Koch), are a possible candidate for investigation by the secret police. A former classmate from the training college invites the lecturer to one of the artist’s plays; the classmate is now in the top ranks of the secret police. The lecturer accepts the change of the mission to out the innocent director.
The artist and apparently soulless agent are worlds apart. One with passion of joy and sorrow and love, a passion for his work, the other is stern and married to this work that he carries out blinded with a-moral loyalty for his state. Their differences are excellently enforced by their homes, one in an older building with charter, rooms filled with books and life, the other over minimalist with no personality in an almost hollow concrete apartment block.
In his apartment, the artist unknowingly performs for the agent. Sitting in a dimly lit attic above, he uses bugging devices to listen in on every sound in the apartment. The agent is shown love, conflict, the joys of music and literature.
From this film, some may take an understanding of how harsh governments with too much power were or can be, but the ultimate message as with the film is not overly political. Simply – people can change.