The Lives of Others

by Stephen Tall on June 10, 2007

I’m by no means an anti-intellectual, inverted-snob – still, I won’t pretend that I was wholly enthusiastic about popping to the cinema to watch a German-language film on a Saturday night. A subtitled political drama about censorship in pre-Wall East Germany sounded like a little too much hard work.


The Lives of Others (2006, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck) is a stupendously good film – so strong I can now comprehend why the Academy gave it the Oscar for that absurd lumpencategory, Best Foreign Language Film, even over and above Guillermo del Toro’s truly remarkable Pan’s Labyrinth.

The multi-layered themes build to a cracking finale. Is it about the power of art to transform? Or of power to corrupt? Or is it simply a tragic love story? Whatever, it’s scorchingly well-written, with stellar performances from inter alia Ulrich Muhe and Sebastian Koch.

So forget those Terrible Threes, Pirates of the Caribbean and Spiderman, and try something brilliantly constructed, plotted, written and acted instead. Even if it is from ‘Foreign’.