On The Couch #18: The Lives of Others

If The Lives of Others isn’t in your Netflix queue already, go add it right now. Seriously, right now. I’ll wait.

Okay, welcome back. Wait, what do you mean what do I mean welcome back? You didn’t click away from this page to Netflix and add it to your queue? You were just waiting me out? Wow, I thought we had a trust thing going here. Guess I was wrong. Okay, hopefully I can convince you to add it by the end of this entry. But I’m still a little hurt.

The Lives of Others takes place in 1984 East Berlin and is about Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, who starts the movie as the textbook definition of asshole East German bureaucrat. He specializes in sniffing out enemies of the state and is willing to bury people for the slightest infractions against East Germany. If this guy was a cop, he’d be the kind that gave out jaywalking tickets on empty streets.

For zie last time, I um not Herr Moby!

Because of his tenacious zealotry to the state, HGW is his boss’s top choice to spy on and build a case against Georg Dreyman, a playwright who is believed to be conspiring to produce propaganda against East Germany. Over the course of listening in on Dreyman’s daily life, HGW’s heart grows three sizes. Combine this with HGW finding out the motives of his bosses have more to do with greed and lust than preserving the state and HGW begins to subtlety turn on them.

All this makes for a very intense and sometimes thrilling drama, but there is one big unintended comedic bit. HGW’s boss, Grubitz, looks exactly like Principal Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He’s got it all: the awkwardly parted red hair, the bushy moustache, the gray suit. During a tense confrontation between Grubitz and HGW, I was hoping that Yello’s Oh Yeah was going to start playing. Sadly, this movie has exactly zero scenes of Grubitz being chased by a Doberman.

Vee are listening to youuuu…

The Lives of Others takes place in 1984 East Berlin, but draws parallels to the United States. How different are the Stasi round-ups from the internment of the Japanese in World War 2? A viewer could also see this movie as a warning about how slippery the slope is between the Patriot Act and the East Germany of the 1980s.

While writing this post, I came across a listing on IMDB saying that there is an American remake of The Lives of Others slated for 2011 release. The details were scant, but I did see that it will have the same writer, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, which is a good sign. This new version will take place in America and be about an FBI agent. It will be interesting to see when it will take place, post-9/11? The 1980s? The 1990s when McVeigh and Koresh were in the headlines?

My recommendation is to not wait for the remake and add The Lives of Others to the top of your Netflix queue today. And don’t worry about your shenanigans earlier at the top of the page; we’re cool.