The Lives of Others (2006)

Directed by Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck

Who’s in it? Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur

What’s it about? This morally uncompromising and utterly compelling Best Foreign Language Oscar winner plays as a tense political thriller set in East Berlin in the twilight years of the Soviet Republic as the Stasi exert their ruthless pressure on ordinary citizens they consider to be enemies of the state. When a hardened surveillance operative (Mühe) is dispatched to spy on a theatre director (Koch) and his affair with his actress girlfriend (Gedeck) he is gradually immersed in the minutiae of their daily lives and slowly rediscovers his own dignity, as his conscience kicks in and he struggles to do the right thing.

Memorable Moments? The film’s climactic closing sequence is undoubtedly its most memorable, partly because you don’t see it coming but it’s also a powerful reminder of the consequences our actions can sometimes have for our own lives and for the lives of others.

Look Who’s Talking: ‘The Lives of Others is a powerful but quiet film, constructed of hidden thoughts and secret desires.’ – Roger Ebert

Like that? Try this: Goodbye Lenin (2003) is a warm hearted, original and delightfully down to earth comedy-drama featuring a beautiful score from Amelie composer Yann Tiersen. Also set in Communist Berlin just before the wall came down, the film stars Daniel Brühl (Rush) as a kind-hearted TV repair man who, afraid of the effect the recent collapse of the Soviet Union could have on the fragile health of his Nationalist mother (in a coma at the time), goes out of his way to ease her in to a newly liberated Germany by pretended that her beloved German Democratic Republic is still standing.

Trivia Pursuit: The film was referenced in political protests following the mass surveillance leaks of 2013. 

Ronan Wright is a graduate in Film Studies from The Queen’s University of Belfast. As well as contributing to MercatorNet as a film critic since March 2011 he has run Filmplicity, a Belfast-based film...