2 hours, 17 minutes
R Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Adult.
for some sexuality/nudity
DVD Features: Deleted scenes; Making of The Lives of Others; Interview with director Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck; Director's commentary.
From 1945 to the breaking down of the Berlin Wall in 1989, East German government had 100,000 people in its employ. It also had 200,000 informers who were given special privileges. This is the story one one loyal unsmiling Stasi (East German Secret Police) officer Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe) and his interrogation of a suspected activist, recording every word. Later, he plays the recording for a class of trainees, pointing out how to determine if they are being truthful and describes his methods of questioning which are more mental torture than physical. The end of his lecture is greeted with much applause by his Stasi superior, Oberstleutnant Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur).
Later, when Wiesler and Grubitz attend a play by the popular writer Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), starring his sweetheart Christa Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), an increasingly famous actress, Grubitz points out Minister of Cultural Affairs Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme) in the audience. After the show, at the cast party Hempf becomes interested in Dreyman's political beliefs, thinking he may not be a completely loyal communist. But he's even more interested in Dreyman's girlfriend for reasons he makes quite apparent by squeezing her backside. She is forced to be nice to the grotesque Hempf lest the Stasi bar her from ever performing
again. Hempf in turn orders Wiesler, through Wiesler's supervisor, Lt. Col. Grubitz
to investigate the playwright and find something to implicate him in anti-socialist activities.
Starting with the bugging of the couple's apartment, Wiesler starts listening to every word the couple says. But, on the way toward amassing evidence against them, something strange happens. He begins to realize that they may simply be innocent artists without political motives. He wonders if he might be becoming corrupted by their ideas, but it seems apparent that there's no evidence of the playwright's disloyalty. As he listens, he develops increasing appreciation for the two suspects and wonders how he might be able to protect them from false accusations.
The near-perfect storytelling by writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in his first directing effort stunningly shows the mechanics of the Stasi operation and the consequences for all involved. And it's all told in electrifying detail. It's gripping filmmaking of the highest order.
In German w/English subtitles