My favourite video rental place is closing shop. It's called 'Cinema Paradiso' (incidentally, one of my all time favourite movies) and they have a fantastic collection of world cinema. Truth be told, I didn't go very often since it's not exactly near my house. But the moment I got the letter saying that they'd be winding up operations in a month, I high-tailed it over there to pick and choose some movies that I've been wanting to see for ages.
"The Lives of Others". Every once in a whiloe, you will be given a rare opportunity that makes you understand why a movie is made in the first place. It reinforces your faith in the absolute power of storytelling. It draws you in with masterful performances. It touches a chord deep within, waking you up and taking you on a drive to a place you never knew existed.
"The Lives of Others" is one such movie.
Set in 1984 East Berlin, the movie is shown through the eyes of a Stasi officer, Hauptmann Gerd Weisler. His belief in the system is unshakeable. He is cold, impersonal and almost menacing. He comes across as a man totally devoid of any human feelings and whatever passion he has, it is for his work, the State, the ideals of Socialism. He is instructed to put an highly-acclaimed and popular author, Georg Dreymann and his actress-partner, Christa-Maria Spielman under video surveillance.
How he becomes drawn to them and entwined in their lives; how his belief in the very system that was his life's purpose is shaken to the core; how he works silently within the system to help the very suspects that he is supposed to turn in and how he becomes an unsung, silent hero with a sense of compassion and courage greater than we've ever seen before, makes up this brilliantly made movie.
A superb performance by Ulrich Muke as the Stasi officer had me giving him a standing ovation in my living room. That a man can act just using his eyes and as little verbal communication as possible, has been supebly demonstrted by Muhe in "The Lives of Others". Did this man win any awards? He certainly deserved to!
A fascinating story, beautifully told, it is now on my "Top Ten" list.
Oh, and a small 'yay!' factor as well, I understood a few bits and pieces of the German dialogues in the movie on my own. Looks like those two years weren't a waste after all! Sehr gut!