Sacrifice. A word heard often in Communist propaganda. Sacrifice for the people, the state, and the homeland. The greater good must be served and all must pay homage to the good of the people's republic.
'The Lives of Others' takes a harsh look at the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany if you will, during the mid-eighties. Stifled by it's own oppression the state looks to find a writer worthy of the revolution, but a writer who's words do not contradict the ideals of the GDR.
Georg Dreyman is a successful playwright and a golden boy for the communist party, but as most artists he is viewed with suspicion and even disdain for the actress he loves. A minister in the party has an eye Georg's lover and plays upon her vulnerabilities to keep sleeping with her. Tired of being the other man the bureaucrat sets the love triangle in full swing arranging for Dreyman to be closely monitored for counter revolutionary activities.
In steps Gerd Wiesler, a party interrogator for the State Security. Cold and unfeeling he's a party loyalist and tackles his work with an almost clinical nature. He has Georg's apartment bugged and round the clock listens to the activities going on. In his voyeurism he is surprisingly touched by the idealism of the playwright and is brought to tears while overhearing Georg play Beethoven in an ode to a fallen director.
The wheels of drama are set in motion as Wiesler empathizes with the playwrite and his girlfriend and provides incorrect reports of their affiliation with anti-communist activists. Even though jail or worse may be upon him he sacrifices all for them, people he will never meet.
Dark and sometimes harrowing the film juxtaposes itself being a daring political thriller and a love story as well. This is no ordinary tale of boy meets girl however. To me this story is about the true meaning of sacrifice, not for selfish love nor even loved ones, but for good people that we may run across but never meet. By shifting the idealism from party loyalty to a lover of an ideal the movie paces itself brilliantly and sets a dreary setting with corrupt Communist Germany as the backdrop.
Sacrifice for the greater good, for those we may never encounter, but who may need our help the most. This may be the strongest love I know.
Many thanks to Rawbean for submitting this as you may already be aware I highly recommend it.
"A potent narrative about the transformative effect of involvement in other people's stories, Lives turns its own story into a python-tight embrace of nuanced tension and emotional connection." - Kenneth Turan