A member of the East German secret police who is investigating a famous playwright and suspected subversive grows ever more sympathetic towards the people he is spying upon when faced with the everyday pressures of the oppressive regime he represents.
Although touted as a thriller, anyone expecting car chases and shoot-outs from The Lives Of Others will be gravely disappointed. It’s a far more intellectual exercise that examines the meaning of freedom and its intimate link with personal privacy, something violated with impunity by The Stasi in the post war years of communist Germany. The story begins showing Ulrich Mühe’s character as not an evil man, but a joyless, officious bureaucrat who truly believes in what he is doing. It is only when he is faced with the reality of the invasive system he is a part of that he begins to question the validity of his activities; especially when it becomes obvious that the accusations were made by a corrupt superior out of sexual jealousy and a colleague who sees the ruination of an obviously decent couple as a mere means to furthering his own career.
Very nicely shot and performed, It’s a thoughtful and beautifully crafted story that exercises the brain rather than the adrenaline gland and is all the more rewarding for it.