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The Lives of Others

September 14, 2010

992. Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives of Others)
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Germany, 2006

IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
Second viewing


German Democratic Republic, 1984: Stasi Staff Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is assigned to bug and monitor the apartment of playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and his girlfriend, actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck). Wiesler becomes gradually disillusioned with his colleagues’ abuse of power and begins to sympathise with the people he monitors.

Essential Scene:

Georg receives a telephone call. Wiesler listens. Georg’s friend Albert Jerska, a blacklisted theatre director, has committed suicide. Georg, speechless, hangs up the telephone. He slowly walks over and sits at the piano. On top of the piano is a pile of sheet music. He finds Sonata for a Good Man, a birthday present from Jerska. Christa-Maria stands behind him, her hand on his shoulder, while he plays the piece.

Wiesler hears. His eyes glisten. A tear runs down his cheek.

Georg: You know what Lenin said about Beethoven’s Appassionata? “If I keep listening to it, I won’t finish the revolution.” Can anyone who has heard this music — I mean truly heard it — really be a bad person?


In The Apartment, Baxter (Jack Lemmon) annouces; “I’ve decided to become a mensch. You know what that means? A human being.” This may seem like an odd comparison but The Lives of Others, like The Apartment, deals with a lonely character who eventually rejects a corrupt system and its privileges in order to regain his humanity and “become a mensch.” That Wiesler starts out in the role of sinister villain makes his redemption all the more moving. And the final scene, which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t seen it, features one of the best last lines of any film I’ve ever seen.

Put simply, I can’t recommend The Lives of Others enough.

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