Starring: Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Running Time: 137 mins
The Lives Of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) is a German film about an East German surveillance officer who, after being tasked with listening in on a writer and his lover, becomes more and more engrossed in their lives.
This is a pretty interesting film, with strong character development and a generally unpredictable plot that keeps you engaged throughout its two and a quarter hour runtime. But what I really don’t get is why this is such a highly-acclaimed film, loved by critics and audiences alike, it seems to me that it’s just okay: an interesting story with no real breakneck excitement to it nor hugely powerful drama.
Before I get into that, however, let’s talk about what is definitely good about this film, mostly the acting. Ulrich Mühe, who plays this surveillance officer becoming absorbed in the lives of the people he is spying on, puts in a very well-held and understated performance that has far more emotional range than anything else in the entire film, which makes him a very interesting main character to follow.
As well as that, the story, while not spectacular, is pretty interesting. It’s a realistic depiction of the subdued but clearly present atmosphere of fear in police states such as East Germany, which is interesting to look at from a historical perspective, but it’s also quite unpredictable in its final act, which provides for a degree of higher intrigue, although not the level that you would expect.
The problem with this film, in my opinion, is that it’s far too subtle and understated. Often, that can be a good thing, but in the case of this story, I found myself really aching to know more about what was actually going on in the lives of these protagonists, rather than just the political ramifications of their actions.
As a result, this film fell victim to its own high level of interest. I wanted to learn so much, but what you end up getting is an excessively patiently-paced and overly subdued drama that doesn’t feature any real excitement to get your heart racing, so it’s ultimately a little bit of an underwhelming watch, and that’s why it gets a 7.3 from me.