In just one sitting, The Lives Of Others has joined my notable list of all-time favorite movies. Like all the other movies on this vaunted list — Star Wars, Shawshank Redemption, Remember the Titans — the Lives of Others adds its own wisdom block to the continuously-growing tower of life. For the goal of being a better person.
Not based on a true story, the movie takes place in 1984 East Germany, when the German secret police (Stasi) kept tabs on citizens who threatened to ‘voice’ up against the socialist system. The simplified plot summary would tell you one such secret agent began to feel sympathetic to the artist that he was spying on. Dig through all 137 minutes of the film and you’ll find politics, history, survival instincts, penance, and the psychology of love.
The movie is not indie, nor is it mainstream Hollywood. Think City of God and Paradise Now, and you’ll get a sense of where this German-born film is coming from. But it’s been a while since I watched a film that made your heart tug in so many directions, at least not since Schindler’s List. It’s depression and fuzzy happiness all at once.
A key thread for me was how Christa caved in so easily to interrogation and betrayed the man she “loved more than anyone else,” just to save her career. I was gravely depressed that someone’s declaration of absolute love could so easily be reversed. Her life wasn’t even threatened. But when the Stasi arrived at the protagonist’s (the one being spied on) apartment to act on the information, she fled and killed herself in shame moments later. Maybe an evil part of me secretly rejoiced at her deserved retribution, but when I imagine how she — and everyone in the regime — could act out of desperation, maybe nothing is unjustifiable.
That said, I still believe in the absolution that love conquers all. Hell I’m not the strongest physically or mentally, by far, but honoring and being loyal to my love is above all other matters. Unlike Christa, I could sacrifice my life if need be.
Hopefully my little personal spiel has intrigued you enough to watch the film. It’s a social drama, so expect one, with lots of reality and seriousness fused in it. My plot summary may be lacking but there’s no shortage of synopses on the web. What’s important is what you take away from the film, the questions you ask from it, and how you apply the answers to your life.