Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Das Leben der Anderen - and it's free!

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany's Secret Police Listened to Your Secrets...

I managed to score a free double pass to see "The Lives of Others" at Cinema Nova for Tuesday night (20/3).

Not one to pass up a free movie if I can help it, I arranged to meet Logan in Carlton on Lygon Street after work. I drove straight in from work and Logan took a tram to meet me. We had a quick foccacia beforehand and then made our way up to the cinema. There was a good number of people already seated but we found ourselves two seats up the back so that we weren't craning our necks - the theatre was "cosy".

There weren't a lot of "young" people at this thing. I'd say that they were mainly in their 50s and 60s, but there were a few people who looked about our age. We hoped that this meant that there wouldn't be any wrapper-rustling or commentary for the hard-of-hearing (which would be slightly superfluous as the film was in German with English subtitles), no mobile phone text messaging or calls, and we could just sit back and watch the film.

We were about right. There was a bit of plastic wrapper crinkling but, on the whole, it was a pain-free experience. Having lots of loud laughers in the audience was sometimes a little disconcerting but maybe there were references in there that I just didn't understand. I was a wee stripling when the Berlin Wall came down and wouldn't have been aware of the existence of the sort of political oppression that was occurring under the Communists.

Even though there were many opportunities for laughter, it still would have been a scary time and place in which to live. The film demonstrates that to survive the regime, people had to bury their own morals and that the price paid by these characters before the destruction of the Berlin Wall was soul-destroying and unnecessary. It wasn't only the Secret Police about which you had to worry; your neighbours could turn you in at any time for a throw-away comment. A joke made by one of the Secret Police staff ensured a mind-numbing demotion to steaming open intercepted letters in a basement and punishment for the general public involved torture before incarceration or being made to disappear.

The coda to the film completed the story very nicely. After all the horrors, life goes on and can be beautiful.

I give this movie 5 stars; I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it heartily.


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