The transition from communism to freedom has been disappointing in many ways. Markets didn’t grow overnight leading to instant prosperity for everyone. Thugs used government to gain privileges and so on.
But dislike of communism was always about more than just material well-being. The Lives of Others captures the essence of freedom and opression in an extraordinary movie. It’s about much more than that—it’s about art and love and the human heart and whether or not we can transform ourselves.
My other thought on watching the director discuss it afterward on the DVD is that he’s an unbelievably talented man. This is his first film. It took him five years to research it, write it and film it. And I wondered what a man of his talent would have done 100 years ago. Probably a playwright. Maybe a novelist. Maybe a painter. But making a movie uses a vaster palette of visual and verbal skills than any one of those. Along with some other types of skills, too. What a world we live in that gives a talent like this such scope for his vision.
I hope I haven’t ruined it for you by making it sound like a cross between Don Quixote, Hamlet and the Gates of Hell. You’re almost certain to be disappointed. So let me make it clear—it’s not the greatest film of all time. There are some contrived moments. But the acting and the language and cinematography and the themes make up for the flaws. It is worth renting. Watch it.