Friday, March 27, 2009

The Lives Of Others


I have a movie recommendation, if you haven't already seen it.

The Lives Of Others concerns the goings-on of the infamous Stasi of the late German Democratic Republic; its iniquitous involvement in the lives of its citizens, with a surprising look at the complex motivations of a leading member of the bad guys.

I can't say much, lest I unnecessarily spoil it. But anyone who wants to discuss it, feel free to spoil it to your heart's content in the comments. I want to know what you think became the real basis for the actions of Gerd Weisler, for one thing.

4 comments:

Evan said...

This is my favorite movie in years. I've watched it a few times over, and I can't decide where in the film Weisler first cracks. The first concrete step he takes is in his conversation with the child in the elevator of his apartment building, where he chokes back his near-instinctual attempt to get a child to inform on his father. But there are earlier moments, such as when he is visibly uncomfortable watching his colleague bait, threaten, then ridicule a young officer who makes a joke at the regime's expense.

Of course, the romantic in me wants to place Weisler's true conversion as he listens to Dreyman play the "Sonata for a Good Man". His rehumanization is completed, then, in reading the pilfered Brecht. (Much German poetry is actually really good, I promise!)

I think the movie was at its best in showing Weisler's transformation happening in stages, and throughout against his better judgment, as when he comes within a hair's breadth of reporting on Dreyman. Weisler has no Damascus road experience. His redemption is initially piecemeal, imperfect, and as such profoundly human. If this movie has a "moral" per se, it is that real heroism need not be particularly heroic. And yet these unseen heroes are perhaps precisely what the world needs.

Bruce Gee said...

Good summary! The part you're missing is this: At the same time Weisler is being influenced by the rich "western" life of Georg et al,as well as the happiness and sense of community in the lives of those he is espying, he is losing his grip on the ideal of socialism through the corrupt example of his higher ups. How demoralizing socialism becomes when one sees that one's superiors are actually cheating capitalists at heart.

I also liked a lot the post-wall run-ins, where adversaries shared past secrets because there was nothing left to hide. For some, it was "the game is over, let's talk about the game."

Bruce Gee said...

You know, Evan. That scene in the cafeteria: It is my take that Weisler at first approved of his boss chastising the young soldier, but then was confused and disapproving when he made it into a joke. I thought the scene was there to begin the story of his disillusionment with socialism: "I am lonely and alone because of my devotion to this ideology. That is the price I've paid. Why bother when my superiors don't have the devotion as well?"

Evan said...

Oh, certainly. The whole cafeteria incident starts because Weisler doesn't sit down at the "bosses' table", but rather with the younger officers, saying "socialism has to start somewhere".