Friday, January 25, 2008

The Lives of Others

I watched The Lives of Others last night. It's good.

I appreciated the fact that there is no great discussion of ideological issues (nothing of any import is ever determined by such discussions), that the characters are loyal or disloyal to the state for reasons that come directly out of their 'lived-in' lives. The writer betrays because of friendship and a sort of remorse that the system constructed to end the waste of lives depicted in his plays should itself waste lives so nonchalantly. The seasoned Stasi interrogator who observes the writer and is seduced and brought down by a life lived well with love and friendship, the very things his life, so correct, so sound, lacks entirely.

I liked as well the means chosen by the writer to expose the GDR: statistics, or rather, the selective lack of them. In a system obsessed by the 'scientific' justification of its policies through statistics about every facet of human life, the decision of stop gathering the figures on suicide in 1977 is the tiny confession that something essential has failed.

The Stasi interrogator, and lecturer in interrogation, is the fulcrum of the film. He is upright, like Cincinnatus in To Kill a Mockingbird. He believed in Socialism and so worked diligently for its endurance. When he stops believing, he acts accordingly. He ends up as a postman. But in a rather awkward and sentimental coda of 3 parts, he is recognised as 'a good man', and the viewer is able to leave the film feeling comforted.

I came across this quote by CS Lewis yesterday. The Lives of Others is a perfect illustration of it.

The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of evil that Dickens loved to paint … but is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried and minuted) in clear, carpeted, warmed, well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.


Hazar Nesimi said...

I loved the film and felt exactly what you did - i felt this could have really happened and Stasi interrogator was a star of the film.

Riri said...

Is that the DVD you asked me about then Nazim?

Hazar Nesimi said...

No! It was Little Britain