The Lives of Others
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that even if kids were interested in this subtitled German film, it's not for them. Set in the oppressive world of communist East Germany in the 1980s, it features psychological cruelty (including interrogation tactics like sleep deprivation) and one unexpected, violent death. A character's suicide prompts discussion about the government's efforts to cover up suicide rates in East Germany during the 1980s. There's also some fairly mature sexual material (a couple undresses and kisses in preparation for lovemaking, a man has an interlude with a nude prostitute, a government official crudely gropes a disinterested woman). Characters smoke lots of cigarettes and drink liquor.
What's the story?
In 1984 East Berlin, Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), a captain in the East German Ministry for State Security, is assigned to observe playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) and look for proof that he's not as loyal as he seems. In the course of his surveillance, Wiesler discovers that Dreyman's live-in actress girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), is cheating on him with the odious Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme), who threatens to ruin her career if she doesn't submit to him. Though Wiesler's take on the situation begins to diverge from his superiors' as his sympathy for the couple grows, he knows how to cover his tracks. But he soon finds himself at the center of a swirl of deception and develops a relationship of sorts with Christa-Maria. Wiesler doesn't so much doubt his previous convictions -- that his work is crucial in maintaining order -- as rationalize his new belief. To boil it down to the most basic level: Art transforms him.
Is it any good?
Taut and intelligent, The Lives of Others was the German nominee for 2007's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how a government like the one in the movie -- characterized by surveillance and lack of free speech -- affects its citizens. How do the characters' surroundings mirror their internal states? How does Wiesler change as he listens to life in Christa-Maria and Georg's apartment, and how can you tell his attitude is shifting?