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And the walls came tumbling down PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Johnston   
Thursday, 19 February 2009 23:58

Wiesler, Stasi agent, The Lives of Others

It has been a very long day. A morning of administrative work (yes, even ministers are submerged with paperwork these days!), an afternoon planning a holiday club for the Easter holidays, and an evening out at Law for the induction of a colleague to the church there. So, tonight while Carolyn is working away in the living room on her studies, I treated myself to a movie before planning tomorrow's assembly at the primary school.

The film was Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others), a German film set predominantly in 1984 in East Germany. Not too promising for a light hearted evening's entertainment, I grant you! [There's more...]

It was, however, a very satisfying and moving account of life behind the Berlin Wall. The character pictured above, Captain Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, is a Stasi agent who takes on the surveillance of a writer. The film depicts the awful vacuous nature of his life in comparison to the fulfilling and happy lives of those he keeps watch on. 

Wiesler finds his own humanity during the course of the film, sacrificing his own career in the process of trying to save those he initially wanted to condemn.

The hypocrisy of life under communism, the terrible hopelessness of the State's rule, and the rampant suicide prevalent in these circumstances are all reminders of what life before the fall of the wall was like.

It is hard to do justice to the story in a few words, but the film is very well done. The images of East Germany are spot on in capturing the grim nature of life under communist rule. It is not surprising that it won an Oscar in 2007. 

Of course, it inevitably raises questions about what our own government seeks to do with our exploding culture of surveillance.  A recent report from the House of Lords, Surveillance: Citizens and the State, raises important questions about privacy, about public trust and about discrimination with relation to increased surveillance.

The themes of Das Leben der Anderen, in other words, are not limited just to East Germany of 1984 and provide a timely warning to us all.

German films can sometimes be very dour, but not this one. A well spent two hours.


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