Das Leben der Anderen (2006)

“Das Leben der Anderen” (2006)

IMDb

reasons to be Human

One of the living thinking minds i most admire is George Steiner. He is a man of great intelligence in the way he knows why knowledge is meaningful, and why it is important to Know. Among the many issues that have been a constant concern in his thinking life, one has been with me all the way since Steiner showed it to me: the brutal contradiction between human actions, or how he would put it; how can someone cry over night deeply moved by a Schubert Sonata, and in the next morning coldly order the killing of thousands of people.

This fundamental issue was vivid in my mind all the way, throughout this happily depressing film. There even is a direct reference to this question in it. So the theme here is how the meanings of art, or the simple reference to it can influence a mind trained to not be influenced and mechanically not behave humanly. Minds trained to trust what they’re taught.

The way this is put together is with one of the most subtle cinematic constructions i have (ever?) seen. The focus is on the artists, repressed artists, subjugated by a repressive regime. In the world framed in this film everything moves around them. Those artists are watched, constantly. We watch them, and in that watching we have the company of someone whose job is literally to watch. He starts with cold inhumanity (the first scene establishes that), obsessive watching, which that regime would probably consider simply ‘professional’.

In the way he gets involved with the subject of his watching (artistically modeled lives). Several things underline this: Art bends his mind to the point in which he plays double and starts writing an invented story to protect the real story the play writer is writing; He steals a book from the subject he’s watching, and secretly reads it at home; he asks a prostitute to stay with him longer than the deal would require, basically to be more than sex. Ultimately, he rewrites the ending of the whole story by hiding a forbidden object (a typewriter!) and thus secretly entering and changing the life of the artist.

This is a perfect expression of the dangerous of true commitment to true art, the art which embraces ideas that matter.

The camera is subtle, it moves most of the time, its movement doesn’t call attention, but always add up to the tension, mostly with subtle travelings. And watch the use of space. See how the interior of the apartment is used, how the cinematography carefully captures all the nuances and how they enlarge and diminish the inner space, in accordance with what the characters feel. Than notice how the humanity of that coloured environment is contrasted with the attic where the watcher stands, and even how he abstractly recreates the space below, from the sound of it.

Ulrich Mühe really had a deeply moving and intelligent performance. Very sad that he left us so early, here he really is something to look at, and performs fully in the field that most impresses me: that of subtlety, that kind of acting of great expression out of imperceptible moves. Most of it is in his face, so many times carefully framed.

The aftermath of the thing is when the artist writes a book, supposedly about the story we just saw. As if the film we had just seen was in fact made from the book. I was lucky to watch such a film. what a privilege.

Most of the times, i appreciate a film for its qualities as a vehicle for new/interesting ways to pass a story, or for how its visual quality/presentations gives me themes to dream about. This one works on the both previous aspects, but does it in a theme that matters. That’s so rare.

My opinion: 5/5, watch it if you want to feel more human.

This comment on IMDb

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