Von Donnersmarck’s powerful, beautifully crafted film captures life in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when secret police or Stasi agents scrutinised the population for signs of dissent or divergence from toeing the line of the totalitarian regime. The story tells of three main characters a successful writer (Koch) suspected of subversion, his lover (Gedeck) and the Stasi agent (Muehe) assigned to watch them. When the surveillance reveals nothing culpable the agent is instructed to frame his subject, and the film focuses on the subtlest of performances from Muehe in his lone struggle with his conscience as he decides what to do.
In a world where surveillance and control increasingly encroach, this fascinating film depicts a society where a state suspected its people of being disloyal and inspired them to be so. Paranoia was rife in E. Germany when neighbours, colleagues, lovers could inform on one another and the film breathes insecurity. In Lives of Others one character informs on her lover, and in real life Muehe discovered that his wife was a Stasi informant. In July 2007 Muehe died aged 54 – he will be remembered for his theatre performances but most of all for his portrayal of the Stasi agent in this film.
A powerful but quiet film, constructed of hidden thoughts and secret desires. Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.
You know within minutes of watching The Lives of Others that you are in confident, authoritative hands. Philip French, The Observer.
With solid performances and a terrific screenplay, this movie offers solid, no-frills drama that feels organic and believable, not contrived. There should be no argument that it is deserving to be numbered among the elite non-English language productions receiving international distribution. James Berrardinelli, ReelViews.