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The Lives of Others

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Allen Hirsch, Mar 10, 2007.

  1. Allen Hirsch

    Allen Hirsch Supporting Actor

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    I did a search and was shocked to find not a single thread on this foreign film Oscar winner (I know it's not in very wide release yet, and only available in major market arthouses now, but still...).

    Set in the 1980s, "The Lives of Others" tells the story of a secret service agent in East Germany who becomes obsessed with two of the country’s top intellectuals after he is assigned to spy on them.

    This is the best surveillance movie since Coppola's "The Conversation", with plenty of plot twists and paranoia. It's also a complex political and personal thriller, with no special effects and subtitles - so 90% of the movie-going country won't be interested in seeing it. But it's a very moving story, and a helluva debut by director (and writer) Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, and a terrific performance by Ulrich Mühe, as the Stasi agent assigned to spy on the intellectuals by his college classmate (who's a higher political functionary). Highly recommended.
     
  2. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    I just saw this the other night, a great film. Not perfect the whole way through, but really really well done and it surprised me to read afterwards that this was the director's first film. It was fascinating just watching the Stasi guy listening. Also highly recommended.
     
  3. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I will certainly see this once it hits DVD. I'm sorry to read the comment on "plenty of plot twists". I for one am sick of plot twists. Give me character development and interesting stories over plot twists any day.
     
  4. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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    I didn't think there were that many plot twists. There was one nearer the end which obviously I don't want to reveal, but I thought it was relatively straightforward, and like many foreign films, far more invested in characters and their development and change than plot.
     
  5. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Director

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    Unfortunately the term has become corrupted so that it suggests a hairpin turn -- usually arbitrary -- designed to give the audience a shock and a thrill. The "twists" in Lives of Others are organic to the plot and anything but arbitrary. You react to them not because the film's trying to whip you around but because it's drawn you in so tightly that you genuinely care what happens next. It's filmmaking of the highest order.

    M.
     
  6. L. Anton Dencklau

    L. Anton Dencklau Second Unit

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    This is a really interesting, thought-provoking movie. It really demonstrates how-

    Hold on, there's someone knocking on my door.
     
  7. ChrisWiggles

    ChrisWiggles Producer

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  8. Allen Hirsch

    Allen Hirsch Supporting Actor

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    Very well-said, Michael. That's more what I meant, and certainly is how I viewed it - not arbitrary, but integral to the story.
     
  9. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Saw this tonight. Thought it was excellent. Well deserved win over Pan's Labyrinth, as much as I liked Pan's.

    The coda was beautifully satisfying on a cinematic and humanistic level.
     
  10. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    Finally caught this before it left the local arthouse. Cannot agree with the previous posters more, an excellent film. It's a suspenseful and moving picture at the same time.

    Ulrich Mühe reminded me of Kevin Spacey. His stillness in this film resembles Spacey's turn in Seven, though of course the two are very different characters.
     
  11. Elizabeth S

    Elizabeth S Producer

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  12. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    An excellent film.

    BTW, it is chilling to the bone to remember that shit like this was happening in Europe only 20 years ago.

    --
    H
     
  13. Iver

    Iver Second Unit

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    Surprisingly, few movies have tackled the subject of life in the DDR. Judging by what I've seen released in the U.S., comedies outnumber dramas (there's a twist for ya). Of course, many of us have seen the very successful Good Bye Lenin. There's another set-in-East Germany comedy called Sonnenallee (Sun Alley -- the name of a street divided by the Berlin Wall) which got good reviews but was not released in the U.S. You can get it second-hand in a Region 2 version but the disc's lack of English subtitles will limit the potential audience.

    All the way back in 2000 Voelker Schlondorff directed The Legend of Rita, the story of a young woman who bears a strong resemblance to the female revolutionary Ulriche Meinhoff. A good bit of the movie is set in East Germany and Schlondorff seems to get it right (a former -- or present, depending on how one views these things -- Ossie would be in the best position to judge this).

    In The Lives of Others DVD commentary track director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck quotes lead actor Ulrich Muehe as having said many of his fellow former countrymen (Muehe was a top theater actor in the DDR) were angered at him for having revealed what they considered unseemly details about the operations of the Stasi. Interestingly, Muehe discovered that his ex wife had informed on him to the Stasi. Many of Donnersmarck's actors are former East German residents.

    One technical note on the DVD version of Lives of Others: there are problems with the subtitles. Every few minutes, there will either be a few lines of dialog with no subtitle or the subtitle will only flash for a microsecond. This is a Netflix disc so there's no box from which to glean information. The numbers printed near the center of the disc are DVDL479930A1 and DVDL479930B1.
     
  14. JohnDG

    JohnDG Stunt Coordinator

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    Caught this on StarzHD this week: excellent film. However, there were problems with the subtitles as noted on the DVD.

    jdg
     
  15. Chris Atkins

    Chris Atkins Producer

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  16. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer

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    I completely understand that feeling. Once I finally got around to watching it several months ago, I was just stunned. I was watching it alone since my wife was out of town and I just sat there on the couch after it was over saying "wow." I haven't had a film affect me like that in a a long time. Of course the friends I finally convinced to watch it were like, "eh." Oh well...
     
  17. Chris Atkins

    Chris Atkins Producer

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    I did the same thing, sat on the couch and couldn't move for a while. It's rare that a film combines: a) absolutely brilliant filmmaking, and; b) a meaningful (but non-preachy) message about a dark period in human history (a period about which there are far too few films, unfortunately).
     
  18. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer

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    It is a period of history that needs to have more stories told particularly from the "other side." I think it hit me harder than the friends I recommended it to because of my interest in this period of history (that occurred during a fairly formative time of my life).
     
  19. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    I considered this film for my 2007 year list, and it sat safely at No. 1 for the whole year.

    Holadem, regarding your spoiler, I think that would have been a pretty interesting approach, and definitely a much faster resolution. For me, I prefer the ending as it is now. The story became a very personal story revolving around the two men, and even the biggest geo-political event in the late 20th century probably didn't mean as much for Mühe's character as the gesture contained in the book. He was a beaten man at that point, his good deeds were appreciated.
     

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