Friday, November 16, 2007

The Lives of Others

Winner of the Best Foreign Film at the 2006 Oscars, The Lives of Others comes with impecable reviews. I'm generally a little leary with movies as such... lots of times they seem to be well made, but have some issues with the pacing. The Spanish filmmakers seem to have taken to the style of Tarantino whereas other European directors subscribe to a more old school approach. Lots of lingering shots and symbolism... ala Sean Penn. That style can be good too, but you have to be in the right mood for it.

After finding the time (runtime of 138 min) to watch The Lives of Others, I found myself growing a little restless at the halfway point in the movie. An incredible amount of time is used to set up the last act of the film. The story is about a playwright Georg Dreyman played by the wonderful Sebastian Koch (from Black Book). Dreyman is supporter of the administration in East Germany during the late 70's, early 80's when he catches the eye of a higher up member in the party. He is suspected of treason against the gov't so he is put under the watchful eye of Captain Wiesler (Ulriche Muhe). Wiesler is an admirer of the artist and his lifestyle. He soon becomes defensive of his target when his superiors come looking for dirt on the artist.

Needless to say, complications arise leading Wiesler to have to choose between helping someone he admires or keeping his career on the right track. All the actors do a fine jobs and the subtitles aren't bad at all. It is a shame Muhe died after the film came out because he has a marvelous face for the camera to capture. He gives off the genial Ian Holm vibe, but there always seems to be something lurking under the surface.

Pacing problems aside, The Lives of Others is a well crafted film with great performances from its leading men. I would have liked a bit more of the story to relate to the Wiesler character and less of the repetitive stuff from his target. The ending starts to feel a little tacked on only to finish with a nice touch.


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