Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Lives of Others (Sony Pictures 2006)

When William F. Buckley tells you to watch a film...folks you just plain do it! Here is Buck's review of the 2006 German Film The Lives of Others from National Review. Go see it! You will enjoy it!

I return from one week’s leave from my column, grateful for my old roost and in the mood to repay a favor by granting one, or attempting to do so. You must have the narrative of what happened one day last week.

I was at work, with an assistant, on a long project, a book about the Goldwater campaign and the events leading up to it. At noon I had an e-mail from my oldest friend, a historian-belletrist, a knighted Englishman, whose message was that I must interrupt whatever I was wasting time on in order to catch a particular movie. The title he gave me was The Lives of Others. My companion hadn’t heard of it either. Still, so urgent was my friend’s recommendation that we instructed Google to advise us where, within reasonable reach, we could find it.

We were given one theater 15 miles east of my study, at an odd hour of the evening. But west about the same distance was a matinee at 4:15. So we threw duty to the winds and arrived at the theater in Mamaroneck, New York, which like most modern theaters husbands five different movies, requiring you to specify which it is you are there to see.

We were ushered into a dark chamber entirely empty. The ticket seller told us that if we had arrived two minutes later, the theater would have been shut. “If there’s no one here, we don’t show the film.”

Two hours and twenty minutes later we came away. The house was still empty. I turned to my companion and said, “I think that is the best movie I ever saw.” He is only 23 years old, but he nodded his agreement.

The movie is German, and in German. There is a prejudice, perhaps understandable, against going to see a movie made in a foreign language. But good subtitle writers capture your mind and heart early in the engagement, and after ten minutes you are as if tuned into your native language. This is so of this German film, which depicts life in Berlin in 1984 under the famous Stasi, who were ten times as numerous as their brother Gestapo had been.

The watchword of the Stasi was information. They would use all their powers, which were plenary, to press their totalitarian thumb down on any expression of life in East Germany. In this case, they had their eye on a playwright who sought to write about the way he and his fellow East Germans lived. To effect their surveillance the Stasi used the most rudimentary tool of social highwaymanry, the listening device. The writer is away from his lair for a day, and no fewer than eight technicians swoop down on his apartment, from which moment there is not a private swallow in the life of the author and his lady and his friends.

Omnipresent in the film is the Stasi officer who is listening to it all, turning the device over to a coadjutor every eight hours, together with notes about the conversations he has overheard during his watch. And then, and then, there is a trickle of humanity, which quickly turns the drama into three parts, Stasi vs. German humankind vs. Stasi. The tension mounts to heart-stopping pitch and I felt the impulse to rush out into the street and drag passersby in to watch the story unfold.

The principal players are captivating, especially the main Stasi officer, who, without a change in aspect of his dour countenance, undergoes this convulsion of the soul, which permits the author life, though without his martyred lady. There is then the sublime vengeance of a published book’s dedication to the redemptive German functionary who briefly interrupted hell in East Germany, pending, finally, the eradication of the terrible Berlin Wall.

I looked at the record and was gratified to find, in the critics’ files, encomiums absolutely unconfined in their admiration of this movie, which in fact won the Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film. And I was unsurprised to find that what seems the whole of East Germany is riven by its impact. Since so many East Germans were complicit in the postwar reign of the German Democratic Republic, there is a corporate national shame at the betrayal of life, as so brazenly done by so many millions, but whose country, at least, has given the world this holy vessel of expiation.
Can you imagine Jesse Jackson having a face to face debate with Buckley? Folks, I'd spend hundreds of dollars to just listen to that on a small cruddy radio.

Here is the trailer from the film.

Knock! Knock! It's just you're friendly, all-caring, all-knowing guvment!!!


Brooke said...

It sounds GOOD!

WomanHonorThyself said...

ty for the review Edge!

EDGE said...

Hello Ladies! Thanks for the visit and be sure to rent this film. I know reading subtitles can be a PITA but trust me when I say it's the best foreign film I've ever seen!

nanc said...

since "passion of the Christ", i have no problems with subtitles - that, and because i don't like the television on loud when the kidz are watching it - they turn on caption.

i'll probably rent or purchase this one.

tks - edge

EDGE said...

Hi Nanc,

Passion of the Christ was good too! I'll have to keep that in mind!

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Edge, I got to your page through DD2's page. I notice you're hot for Huckabee in '08. I also noticed on your blobpage you made mention to yourself as being a conservative. While I don't mean to stir the pot too much or question your self proclaimed assertions or your conservatism, the fact that as a conservative you are supporting a "Republican" (read RINO) who would seek to implement a Nationwide Smoking Ban strikes me as odd. Any true blue conservative would cringe at such a notion.

EDGE said...

'Sup Soap,

Fighting terrorism, securing the border, protecting the 2nd Amendment, cutting taxes, and being pro-life are my chief concerns in this election, and so far Huckabee has impressed me on everyone.

I agree that a smokiing ban in public areas is not a conservative principle and that such an issue should be left up to the states and not the feds. The only thing the feds should be smoking is terrorists IMO.

That being said this issue is just not high on my priority list...and I like to smoke cigars occasionaly...usually not in public areas.

If Huck should be elected Prez. and he wants to ban public smoking, I won't support it. Kind of like I didn't support Bush and his lame ass education and amnesty bills.

With all due respect Soap, calling Huck unconservative is just preposterous. Rudy and Fred just aren't doing it for me and McCain is a prick. I think Thompson will end up winning and he will get my vote.

I'm curious who are you voting for?

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Well, your approach is certainly well respected. I like that you exhibit the clarity to tier your priorities and weigh it as such. I may have been a bit hasty in my initial post. Because, as you well know, there's not likely to ever be a candidate that you're going to be 100% behind.

Me though...I'm still weighing everything out to see how this thing is going to play out. I would have liked to see Newt get in because I think he would have brought some good things to the debates and would have drawn some of the other guys out of their shells (sort of the way Ron Paul is but not quite so out there).

At this point, I'm not overly inspired by any of them. Most of them have at least something I like but I'm going to be very critical in this next election.

And, despite this incessant desire to vote for any GOP candidate in an effort to "beat the beast", I am willing to go through the hell that would likely ensue were Hillary elected, if that is what is needed to regrow the cause of conservatism. I'm done with RINO's and the whole "going to get along mentality."

p.s. thanks for the comments on 1938 Redux

Name: Soapboxgod said...

After hearing Justice Clarence Thomas' interview on 60 minutes, that's actually a guy I could support (did you catch any of it?). But, as it were..he's not running.

While Huckabee's overall positions are conservative, I just don't feel in my heart of hearts that any conservative principle ought to be compromised. Private property is a huge thing for me. And, it irks me when people can't look at the smoking ban issue (or any other issue for that matter) objectively. You'll always hear people talk about the issue with an I,me,my mentality. "I should be able to not have to be subjected to smoke...blah blah blah." The argument goes the other way too.

But the real issue is the right of the private business owner vs. Government regulation and intervention.

People fail to realize that while applauding government intervention which is serving in their best interest in this regard, they will at some point come to find themselves on the other side of that gun.

EDGE said...


I understand where you're coming from; your right that the government is too controlling. I'm surprised that Huck has taken a stance like this b/c it is out of his political character...especially with firearms!

Once you let the government in anywhere as we all know (or should know) it's difficult getting them out!

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old post, Edge, but I cannot wait to rent this. I eat at a hole-in-the-wall Italian place, and my favorite waiter sees at least 5 films a week!
He's been hounding me to see this for a LONG time.
It's long overdue.

EDGE said...

Give that waiter a good tip! ;O)

Unknown said...

I saw this film on cable and found it riveting. Seems odd that you top off your review with the comment about Jesse Jackson vs. William F. Buckley. Sure.. Buckley was a master thinker, writer, and debater, but he was also a rather thorough racist who used his intellectual gifts to argue the inalienable state's right to deny liberty to those of the black race. In that sense, Jesse Jackson has him beat on the facts no matter how funny he sounds when he speaks.

Consider that some who watch "The Lives of Others" and the beautiful human story portrayed within, will see in the portrayal of the oppressive state, certain aspects and elements considerably closer to home than might have occured to you.

EDGE said...


I'm gald you enjoyed the movie and welcome to my blog.

To put it very clearly, Jesse Jackson is quite honestly the biggest imbecile in the entire human race. Not black and white mind you, the entire human race.

Can you name me one job that he has obtained? Just one? I mean a real honest to God job? The only one I can think of is when he worked in the kitchen of the Palmetto Club in South Carolina. He would later proudly admit to spitting in the soup for all the old white folks to eat. Nice guy. Really classy.

You see, like Buckley, I am a racist. I mean, haven't you heard? All white male Republicans are? And why?

Because we believe in the very words of Martin Luther King Jr.

"I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Can't you see the laws and regulations that the liberals are putting in place are keeping American Blacks uneducated and poor? And who do the libs blame...mean ol' whitey. Just vote for us and we'll make those rich white folks poorer!

Well... but how about making blacks...wealthier and more educated?

No my friend, I have to disagree with you. However, I hope you will return to my blog. You are more than welcome to visit and post.