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Volume 72, Issue 102, Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Life & Arts

Audience spys in on the ‘Lives of Others'

by JOHN ARTERBURY
The Daily Cougar

For writer Georg Dreyman, life was beautiful. 

He had debuted a new play to wide acclaim, was involved with a nationally beloved actress and had friends in high places -- friends who would alter his life dramatically. 

The Lives of Others, written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, is the Academy Award-winning story of the East German secret police's investigation of Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), and of the impact it had on those involved.

Dreyman becomes the focus of the Stasi -- the feared secret police of the German Democratic Republic -- after culture minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme) develops an unhealthy interest in Dreyman's lover, actress Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck).

Seeking to uncover information that could be used to destroy Dreyman's writing career, Hempf orders a Stasi investigation of him.

Stasi operatives under the auspices of Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) bug Dreyman's apartment and survey his every move in the hopes of unearthing some evidence of political subversion.

Wiesler's challenge, however, arises when he realizes that Dreyman is relatively clean. Dreyman's love for East Germany is as palpable as his own, and the bureaucrats orchestrating the operation are far more criminal than Dreyman could ever be. 

Wiesler becomes deeply unnerved by the trysts between Hempf and Sieman, and his faith in his beloved government is shaken. 

The suicide of Dreyman's close friend, blacklisted playwright Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert), disturbs Dreyman, and when Wiesler, in a moment of conscience, discreetly alerts Dreyman to his lover's infidelity, the writer is motivated to rebel. 

The end result is complex and deeply moving.

While the East German political system was viewed with bitter nostalgia in 2003's Goodbye Lenin!, the same system is shown as monstrous and corrupt in The Lives of Others. 

The film develops slowly, and suspense is built upon gradually through a series of minor events. While it may drag occasionally, the culmination is worth the time invested.

The Lives of Others serves as both a scathing indictment of the East German political climate in the days shortly before its collapse, as well as a touching moral parable. 

The transformations of Dreyman and Wiesler are rendered poignantly, and serve as a testament to the ability of the human spirit to change and overcome in the face of adversity. 

Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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