East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Lives of Others: Conversation piece

Sharp concept: Wiesler, proud Socialist Stasi, is assigned to snoop on Dreyman, favoured playwright of Mrs Honecker; Wiesler gets morally confused. From the brilliant opening sequence, in which Wiesler impassively plays excerpts from a marathon interrogation for the edification of his students, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is almost as efficient as his subject. The difference (besides occasional un-Wieslerian sloppiness, especially in editing of conversations) is that he doesn't lose himself in his art. The screenplay, however, does: I have no problem with the humanisation of the Stasi officer; what I object to is the extent to which the humanisation is driven by Brecht and the gloopy "Sonata for a Good Man". And it's too long, with the existence of multiple endings more damaging than the fact the some of them are happy. But the movie is outstanding for the way it piles up ironies, as each successive good deed comes ever closer to causing disaster. Ulrich Mühe, as Wiesler, effectively uses the old trick of not doing much, so that when you do just a little more it means the world. In a messy role, love interest Martina Gedeck is dignified; in a clear role, Sebastian Koch, as Dreyman, is attractive.


40 favourite songs of the Nineties, #28: Sleater-Kinney, "The Size of Our Love"

Carrie's death fugue. She draws out and flattens every phrase, as the dying of a lover overtakes life. Comfort doesn't stand a chance against reality -- no pink frost, just black milk.

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