Some movies move beyond entertainment and document most difficult of times subtly in a form of an engaging cinematic tale. The German drama, The Lives of Others (made in 2006), is one such brilliant film about life in German Democratic Republic (GDR) that is East Germany before the collapse of Berlin wall.
The film essentially revolves around role of agents of Stasi (GDR’s secret police) in monitoring lives of artists, writers, intellectuals and thinkers who were critical about totalitarian regime and were perceived as threat to the state. One such Stasi captain Gerd Wiesler (code:HGW XX/7) is in charge of an operation which involves monitoring life of a playwright Georg Dreyman. Dreyman is also put under surveillance because his well-known actress lover Christa-Maria Siebald is fancied by Cultural Minister of the State. Dreyman’s house is totally wired and each conversation between the couple is recorded and monitored 24×7.
The film shifts from being about playwright, his lover and jealous Cultural Minister to simpleton Stasi agent Wiesler, who starts getting influenced by playwright Dreyman’s refined taste of music and intellectual ideas. He sees no enemy of state in the fine man, his actress lover and his intellectual friends. He slowly stops recording each and every move. He manipulates all observations and records and actually helps the playwright smuggle an article about suicides by intellectuals and artists in GDR out of the country. Playwright Dreyman remains in the dark about this important role of Wiesler in his life. At one point of time to save her life even his lover becomes his informant and eventually kills herself out of guilt.
After the collapse of Berlin Wall and end of GDR when people are allowed to access their secret Stasi files, Dreyman goes through his files and realizes that false information filed by Wiesler had saved him from interrogation and detention. Wiesler meanwhile had been banned by Stasi Police for the intelligence failure of his operation and sent away on another lowly mundane job. Dreyman decides against confronting his unknown accomplice. He dedicates his next novel to him instead. The film ends on an extremely subtle note – Wiesler sees the dedication and silently buys the book.
Some dark truths and tales never remain hidden. This tale about true excesses of GDR, intrusion and surveillance of people’s lives by secret agents of the communist regime, gross violation of human rights, suicides due to oppression and lack of creative freedom too had to be told. The writer, director Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck has told the dark tale of oppression and excesses of totalitarian regime not so long ago in East Germany excellently. The film once again portrays how art, literature, music stubbornly persist and hold mirror to the ugly realities of the time. Beauty and truth can never be gagged!