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The Lives of Others

Oh man, I didn't know what I've been missing on OKTO channel! ><

Awesome film: The Lives of Others
A German film in the Socialist age before the fall of the Berlin wall, depicting the ironies of the Socialist regime. It shows how the State observes and spies on its members suspected of anti-State activities... The most amazing scene to me was how, in this sterile building with grey walls and straight lines, there could be a room with files and files and organized folders based on every suspect's movements.

The film stars a writer who has come under suspicion, not for any idle word or joke against the State, but because his lover, a beautiful artist named Christa-Marie, caught the eye of a official, Hempf. A middle-rank officer, Wiesler, is sent to take charge of the full surveillance of the writer Georg Dreyman. Wiesler is meticulous; the bugs are everywhere, even in the bathroom. And he in turn occupies the attic above Dreyman's apartment, for half a day, listening and typing down reports on Dreyman's conversations and activities.

Dreyman, who initially wasn't outwardly anti-socialist, drew the admiration of Wiesler. The oral reading of prohibited Western poems, the playing of Beethoven's music on the piano, all seemed to justify the desire of the people to fight free of the fear imposed by the State. Wiesler finds himself drawn into the lives of the couple he is surveiling. When he discovers that Hempf accosts Christa-Marie every Thursday and 'rapes' her in his car, his first act of interference was to manipulate the electrical switches in Dreyman's apartment so that the latter would head downstairs to the main door and spy his wife exiting, ruffled and upset, from Hempf's car.

The drama escalates when Dreyman's beloved friend, a director black-listed by the State and prevented for years from directing, commits suicide. Dreyman writes on the prevalence of suicide in East Germany, and the irony of how suicide rates is the one number not tabulated in the country. He contacts a fellow writer earmarked already for his anti-socialist stance, and gets an opening to have his article published in a Western magazine, 'Spiegel'. Wiesler hears all this with growing apprehension, but in his reports, he fabricates a pro-Socialist play that Dreyman was supposedly writing. Everytime, he tells himself, just one more chance.

The article is published. All hell breaks loose. The State wants answers, and the pressure is coming from above. When Christa-Marie stops showing up for her rendevous with Hempf, the spurned official turns her in for drug possession. She is arrested, and she confesses that the article had been written by Dreyman.

In a bid to save Dreyman, Wiesler preempts his supervisor and removes the typewriter with its particular typeface which would indict Dreyman for writing the article. Christa-Marie is released on condition that she work as an informant. She is ordered to return to Dreyman and pretend to be surprised when officers from the Stasi come to search for the typewriter. However, her guilt drives her out of the apartment just as the officers uncover the hiding place. She does not see that the typewriter is no longer there. She dashes downstairs and steps into the path of a bus, commiting suicide in front of Wiesler.

Upon her death, the mission to indict Dreyman of a crime - any crime - is terminated. Wiesler, coming under suspicion himself for being uncharacteristically incompetent, is relegated to the low job of steaming open letters in the post for the next 4 years.

It is there in the office that a fellow worker breaks news that the Berlin wall has been pulled down. Freedom.

He walks out.

Freedom now comes upon East Germany. The arts scene is liberated. 2 years later, Dreyman sits watching a play. He exits, finding it unbearable to watch another actress reciting the same lines as Christa-Marie once did. Outside, he bumps into Hempf, who had exited for the same reason. There, Hempf reveals that Dreyman had been under surveillance and that Christa-Marie had come to him because Dreyman hadn't been able to satisfy her.

Dreyman discovers the bugs Hempf told him about. He heads for a new Department set up post-Socialism, where individuals are able to access the files once written about them, and information on the men who spied on them. There, he discovers the falsified reports protecting him, and Wiesler's part in saving his life. He discovers where Wiesler works - as a postman now, but something prevents him from making contact.

2 Years later, Wiesler walks by a bookstore selling Dreyman's latest novel - A Sonata For A Good Man. He enters and flips it open - he'd heard Dreyman play this song on the piano before. He is surprised to see that the book is dedicated to HGW XX/7, his codename and the one he used to sign off on every report made on Dreyman. Including that last report where his thumbprint smudged with Dreyman's typewriter's distinctive red ink, told Dreyman the whole story.

He buys the book. The cashier asks if he wants it gift-wrapped.

He answers, 'No, it's for me.' And then the smile of a meticulous man, a bit stifled perhaps, but playing a very important part in bringing down the regime which oppressed him.


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