This movie (originally called Das Leben der Anderen) is a virtuoso feature film writing and directorial debut by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck that very much deserves all the many awards it was collected. Prompted by my sister-in-law’s brother’s advice (Thanks Doug!) I put the DVD on hold at the library and finally watched it last night with my wife. This is a most impressive film and should be seen by all who are interested in history or in exceptional film-making or if you are an adult.
The performance of the late Ulrich Mühe, in particular, is outstanding. Exceptional. He is one of those performers who, after watching this movie, you just want to see everything he has done. I only wish I understood German half as well as Donnersmarck understands English so I could actually do that. And when you learn how this actor’s life in the GDR so closely mirrored the monitoring of artists in the film… you just have to shudder.
Donnersmarck, too, is someone whose future work I will be very keen to follow. His painstaking research and incredible attention to detail in capturing 1984 Communist Germany is inspiring. I especially appreciate his picking of that particular year. Besides being appropriate historically it also is more than a nod to George Orwell and his Ministry of Truth. I’ve often thought that Orwell should not have picked a date as the title for his book but, with Donnersmarck’s help, I now see his chillingly exacting foresight.
I was also impressed by the acting of Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur.
I understand Hollywood wishes to do a remake. My only question is “Why?” What a waste that would be. Put the money into America’s own dark closets of history and Ministry of Information if you really want to acknowledge the greatness of Donnersmarck’s work. Do some more research on J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI or, even closer to home for Hollywood, the McCarthy hearings and you’d be better served.
A must see!
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