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Lives of Others

4 stars out of 5

We're lucky; in these days of the DVD and close-in release dates, it must be very difficult to keep an art house cinema running. Yet, we have one, courtesy of Cinemark, about 20 minutes away in a suburban mall. Thus, just a few days before the Oscars, we were able to take in a big-screen showing of one of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, The Lives of Others. One of the reasons we went to see it was Neal's prediction that it would take the Oscar in the category. We've only seen two of the five nominees, but Pan's Labyrinth needs to be taken for a long walk every night when you get home. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine any of the other three films having the combination of production values, direction, acting and script which combined to make it a pleasure to read subtitles and listen to German for a couple of hours. I am a sucker, I should point out, for German films, as I once spoke the language a little and so swell with pride when I can understand people before the subtitle comes up. Historically highly accurate (based on my own understanding of the GDR (East Germany), both during and after Communism, it is a frightening and yet moving evocation of a very scary time when a very scary group of absurdly normal people ran a police state. I don't know about you, but I always wonder about the accuracy of such films, at the detail level and at the emotional level. This film may have missed a few details, but it rings true emotionally, and is right on the big stuff, even if it had to tamper with the little stuff. Here's a discussion of the accuracy of the film by a German intellectual. You can read an interview with the director as well.