• James Rutherford

'The Lives of Others': A Provocative Thriller about an Stasi Officer's Covert Surveillance Duties


Movie poster for the German film The Lives of Others starring Ulrich Mühe and Sebastian Koch

“The Lives of Others” (“Das Leben der Anderen”) is a German drama-suspense thriller from 2006, set in Soviet-controlled East Germany circa 1984 and starring Ulrich Mühe as Gerd Wiesler, a Captain in the Stasi state security service. Codenamed “HGW XX/7”, Wiesler is assigned to the covert surveillance of renowned playwright and suspected antagonist Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch).


Asserting pro-Communist views in order to avoid the Stasi’s scrutiny, Dreyman is unknowingly beleaguered by newfound investigation at the behest of Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme), East Germany’s Minister of Culture who harbors an undue obsession with Dreyman’s girlfriend, actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck). Wiesler’s clandestine observations lead him to a surprising crisis of duty, as he comes to empathize with the couple's attempts to secretly publish damning evidence against the German Democratic Republic. His newfound compassions lead him into dangerous waters, as he soon finds himself operating in stark contrast to his assigned duties—immersing himself in the personal lives of Dreyman and Sieland and putting his own livelihood in jeopardy.


Written and directed by German filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Tourist”, “Never Look Away”), “The Lives of Others” is a thrilling and captivating affair, delivering grade-A suspense as well as a remarkable glimpse behind the curtain and into the historically secretive and enigmatic German Democratic Republic. Thrilling, provocative and profoundly moving, it’s a world-class paragon of international cinema—and was the highly deserving winner of the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film in 2006.

 

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