44 Days of Paranoia #27: The Lives of Others (dir by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)

For our latest entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia, let’s take a look at a German film from 2006, the Academy Award-winning The Lives of Others.

The Lives of Others takes place in 1984.  Germany is split between the capitalist West and the communist East.  The government of East Germany maintains its power by strictly controlling the flow of information and keeping its citizens in perpetual fear of the secret police, the Stasi.

Georg Dreyman (played by Sebastian Koch) is a successful and internationally renowned playwright, as well as being the lover of actress Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck).  Cultural minister Hempf (Thomas Thieme) is himself obsessed with Christa-Maria and, eager to get Dreyman out of the way, he orders the Stasi to put the playwright under surveillance.

Ambitious Stasi officer Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur) is eager to pursue the assignment, seeing it as an opportunity to further his own career.  However, the officer that Grubitz assigns to bug Dreyman’s apartment, Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe), is less enthusiastic about investigating someone who appears to be a loyal communist.  As Wiesler secretly gets to know both Dreyman and Christa, he finds himself becoming more and more disillusioned with the government that he has sworn to serve.

When Dreyman does finally decide to challenge the government (by writing an anonymous article on the high suicide rate in East Germany), Wiesler finds himself forced to decide whether to turn Dreyman in or to try to protect him.

Much like The Conversation, The Lives of Others is one of the best films ever mare about surveillance.  Along with portraying, in very convincing detail, the drabness of living in a society where all thought is policed, The Lives of Others is also a portrait of people for whom a state of paranoia and fear has become the norm.  The Lives Of Others may be set in the past but, considering what we now know about NSA spying, the film feels less like a history lesson and more like a very relevant statement about where we might be heading to in the future.

Other Entries In The 44 Days of Paranoia 

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective
  12. Burn After Reading
  13. Quiz Show
  14. Flying Blind
  15. God Told Me To
  16. Wag the Dog
  17. Cheaters
  18. Scream and Scream Again
  19. Capricorn One
  20. Seven Days In May
  21. Broken City
  22. Suddenly
  23. Pickup on South Street
  24. The Informer
  25. Chinatown
  26. Compliance