I can’t believe I put off watching this for so long. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Oscar-winning first (!) film gives insight into the voyeuristic world of the DDR‘s Secret Police, or Stasi. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), a quiet and loyal member of the secret police is highly suspicious of East Germany’s most lauded playwright, Georg Dreymann (Sebastian Koch). Minister Hempf (Thomas Thieme), seeing this as an opportunity to get rid of Dreymann so he can move in on his girlfriend, actress Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck), approves the motion to bug their apartment. Wiesler now spends his days in the attic of Dreymann’s apartment building, listening in on his parties, conversations, arguments, and romantic moments. He uncovers no traitorous actions or discussions, but develops personal interest in Dreymann and Christa-Maria’s doings. Hempf, impatient for Dreymann to be taken in, forces Christa-Maria to have an affair with him. Wiesler is disheartened at the realization that his monitoring is for the sake of a corrupt official’s lustful desires. After a friend of his commits suicide, Dreymann is motivated to take action against the DDR’s censorship and blacklisting in the form of a derisive poetic essay published in West Germany. Wiesler must choose between exposing or protecting the man who has opened his mind to art, music, and freedom of thought. Pressure on all three key players increases and escalates into a hearbreaking but appropriate conclusion.
I really loved this movie. Everything was just done so well, so subtly and beautifully. Character development was gradual but explosive. The use of music was spot-on. I am so impressed with the direction and writing, especially considering it is Henckel von Donnersmarck’s first feature-length. I also really appreciated Mühe’s characterization of Wiesler. He brought a lot of personal experience into the role, having lived in East Germany as a theater actor under surveillance, later to find out his wife was listed as an informant. My main complaint would be that it was a bit long, and could have been edited a bit, especially parts at the beginning. But really, just see this movie. It’s that simple.
Also I’ve decided to add a 5-star-based rating to film discussions. Is this an ok thing to do?