Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2007) [7]

After viewing this, it's no real surprise that this film has been so critically acclaimed and received Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars. It's the same type of middlebrow, safe picture like Mystic River that can appeal to critics and a general American audience. I don't mean to say these are bad films, they're not. A film like this is so stringent in its narrative and what it wants to say that it really leaves any room for anything else. On one level, that's appealing in that everything is being spelled out for the viewer but it's also a bit disappointing that it leaves no room real risk-taking. What saves this film here is that von Donnersmarck has superbly crafted this film in terms of tone and images that take away from the aggressive thematic and plot elements. He overdoes the entire art triumphing over strict ideology too much, as the characters of Wiesler and Dreymen are too easily encased in their roles. As the film progresses towards the end, it appears to me that the film is riding too much on getting to its pre-determined ending, which ends up being its bittersweet resolution. All this sounds like I didn't like the film, but there's something about it that makes it palatable. von Donnersmarck's direction is solid and the look he has created for the film, especially the contrast of the cold, darker world or Wiesler the stodgy ideologue with the more vibrant, light look of Dreyman the artist. It brings out the argument being made by the film that totalitarian socialism, by restricting and monitoring art, hurts the very same ideals that it supposedly stands for.

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