Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Lives of Others Review

Here is the last of the three reviews I wrote last year. I suppose I should mention that, although I try to avoid spoilers for these reviews (which I won't do if I write any sort of other essay), I'm more successful with some movies than others. It's the nature of the medium. That said, if I mention any major plot point that takes place more than halfway through the movie, I'll put a warning up.

Das Lieben Der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

27 November, 2009

Rating: 7.5 Good/Very Good

The Lives of Others, the German entry and eventual winner of the 2006 Best Foreign Picture Oscar, is a film that reaches for but does not quite achieve greatness. It has some pacing problems and can begin to feel contrived at times, but the impeccable acting and insightful, thought-provoking take on the “voyeurism” sub-genre of film raises it well above the threshold of mediocrity

Most Hollywood films that center on observation and voyeurism concern themselves with the disturbing notion of constant observation, but Lives takes a much different approach. While the surveillance itself (by the Eastern German Stasi of a prominent German playwright and his girlfriend) is hardly endorsed, it serves as a means of redemption for Wiesler. Wiesler begins the film as an effective, dispassionate Stasi officer, but through his observance of Dreyman and Sieland he begins to develop a profound and deep sense of empathy for the two. What begins as a slight distortion of his reports to make the writer appear less guilty of sedition becomes something more, and therein lies the main appeal of the story.

However, while certainly well-acted and thought-provoking, something about Wiesler’s transformation seems both too sudden and too thorough. As a result of this, as well as some easily foreseeable (and borderline-contrived) turns in the screenplay, the film becomes a little too predictable by the end.

The film also experiences some pacing problems, as though the director wasn’t quite sure what the exact blend of drama and thriller is that he’s going for. Large chunks of the film (mostly those centered on Dreyman and Siegland’s relationship) feel like a languidly-paced drama, while others attempt with limited success to ratchet up the tension a little. This results in a film can feel a little disjointed at times.

Still, The Lives of Others is still a powerful and intelligent film, and well worth a watch.

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