|Sony Pictures Classics | Release Date: December 1, 2006||CRITIC SCORE DISTRIBUTION|
The Lives of Others wants us to see that the Stasi -- at least some of them -- were, like their Gestapo brethren, “just following orders." You can call that naive optimism on Donnersmarck's part, or historical revisionism of the sort duly lambasted by the current film version of Alan Bennett's "The History Boys." I, for one, tremble at the thought of what this young director does for an encore. Read full review
It's hard to believe this is von Donnersmarck's first feature. His storytelling gifts have the novelistic richness of a seasoned master. The accelerating plot twists are more than just clever surprises; they reverberate with deep and painful ironies, creating both suspense and an emotional impact all the more powerful because it creeps up so quietly. Read full review
The director is fortunate to have cast actors who fully embody their roles. Muehe, who once played Josef Mengele in Costa-Gavras's "Amen," has the ability to let you see far beneath his masklike countenance. Koch, dashing and intense, is entirely believable as a man of the theater; Gedeck exudes a sensuousness that this covert society cannot abide. Read full review
Rather than dwell on the darkness and squalor, von Donnersmarck has fashioned a genuinely thrilling tale, leavened with sly humor, that works ingenious variations on the theme of cat and mouse, speaks to current concerns about personal privacy and illuminates the timeless conflict between totalitarianism and art.
The fictional story here, set between 1984 and 1991, focuses on the investigation of a popular and patriotic playwright (Sebastian Koch); that the captain assigned to his case (touchingly played by Ulrich Mühe) is mainly sympathetic and working surreptitiously on the playwright's behalf only makes this more disturbing. Read full review
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