Los Angeles -- Now that the Globes are over and done we begin the awards race that will culminate in just over a month with the venerable Academy Awards. The seminal moment in film entertainment that awards the best of the best with the iconic knight of arts and letters commonly referred to as The Oscar (R).
So it would be fitting that we take a closer look at a film that won the foreign language category in 2006--"The Lives of Others", set in the Berlin of 1984, the eastern sector that was then known as East Berlin the capital of the GDR or East Germany.
You might say it was a time when communism was on life support and the end was near but not near enough for many who passively resisted a totalitarian system and lost their lives and livelyhood under the heel of an efficient dictatorial government without precedent nor rival.
And with that teaser we welcome you back to My Hollywood Journal E Zine where every page and every bit of information is dedicated to the art, science and commerce of entertainment.
"The Lives of Others" is really a statement of fact that lives do matter and the state is subject to the whim of the people instead of the people subject to the whim of the state. And so it begins, a me'nage a' trois, where a high ranking minister is having a sexual triste with an actress who is in a longterm relationship with a successful playwrite. And the rest well...here is a summary of the main plot line.
No we are giving the spoiler though it is intriguing. That you will have to do on your own.
"Gerd Wiesler is an officer with the Stasi, the East German secret police. The film begins in 1984 when Wiesler attends a play written by Georg Dreyman, who is considered by many to be the ultimate example of the loyal citizen. Wiesler has a gut feeling that Dreyman can't be as ideal as he seems and believes surveillance is called for. The Minister of Culture agrees but only later does Wiesler learn that the Minister sees Dreyman as a rival and lusts after his partner Christa-Maria. The more time he spends listening in on them, the more he comes to care about them. The once rigid Stasi officer begins to intervene in their lives, in a positive way, protecting them whenever possible. Eventually, Wiesler activities catch up to him and while there is no proof of wrongdoing, he finds himself in menial jobs - until the unbelievable happens." - Written by garykmcd (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0405094/plotsummary)
The Lives of Others won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film had earlier won seven Deutscher Filmpreis awards—including those for best film, best director, best screenplay, best actor, and best supporting actor—after setting a new record with 11 nominations. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 64th Golden Globe Awards. The Lives of Others cost US$2 million and grossed more than US$77 million worldwide as of November 2007.
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's came up with the story while in film class trying to come up with a scenario for a film project. Since both his parents were from East Germany he was familiar with the mechanations of the security apparatus.
Donnersmarck told a New York Times reporter: "I suddenly had this image in my mind of a person sitting in a depressing room with earphones on his head and listening in to what he supposes is the enemy of the state and the enemy of his ideas, and what he is really hearing is beautiful music that touches him. I sat down and in a couple of hours had written the treatment." The screenplay was written during an extended visit to his uncle's monastery, Heiligenkreuz Abbey.
What Donnermarck has created is a reality based replica of the political atmosphere inside East Germany. From the drab furniture to the stark muted wardrobe there seems to be a mimimilist visual approach to the setting and action. As though we are in a post apocalyptic world where the soul has been excised from the host body and what you have left is the physical embodient of life with no meaning no purpose other than existence for the sake of existence.
And the visually stark objectivity is further reflected by the steady methodical rythm, tempo and visual exposition clearly engineered like the mechanics of the Stasi interrogation methods and investigation techniques.
In the wake of all this minimalist technical bravado you actually have a moving love story set against the unlikely backdrop of the waning days of a defiant dictatorship whose ambitious vision of a socialist workers paradise remains on life support, no thanks to the security apparatus that makes Ceausescu's Romania progressive instead of repressive. The Germans have always been noted for their stoic efficiency, and this sampling of the GDR's political police action gives credence to the German knack for doing the job right the first time the only time. Lives do matter.
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