The Lives Of Others (Blu-ray + DVD-Video)
A-/B- Sound: B+/B- Extras: B Film: B
the old beer commercial in faux black and white (it looked like a color shoot
with the color removed) where the clown dances around with subtitles in a
letterboxed image (more radical in its day before widescreen TVs or films were
common in the home) asking the immortal question “why are foreign films so…
foreign?” as the makers prove they have no grasp of Fellini’s 8½?
That still is remarkably the stereotype of many import films, but some
recent releases prove quite the opposite.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth,
writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives Of Others (both 2006) not only tear down the “foreign”
myth, but are genre works with even more to say. Others
is a remarkable film (winning the 2006 Best Foreign Film Academy Award) about
the final years of East Germany, the communist/socialist police state that was
the last police state standing as the USSR thankfully imploded. Knowing this in advance makes the films arc
all the more ironic and intense.
Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) is a pro-Socialist playwright supposedly above
suspicion, but under the ultra-Stalinist Stasi secret police, everyone is a
target of some kind. His girlfriend
Christa-Maria (Martina Gedeck) and him are living as happily together as they
can and she is a top actress who lands up in his plays. However, when a top corrupt official starts
hitting on her and expecting sex for protection of her domestic situation,
things start to slowly turn.
no idea about most of what is going on, but a top Stasi official named Hauptman
(Ulrich Mühe in a very tough role) starts uncovering the infidelity, then
becomes a voyeur whose loyalties to the state become slowly compromised as his
personal needs start to supersede a his feeling about a life he is not totally
happy about or honest to himself in his unhappiness with it. The resulting film is a smart thriller, smart
political parable and deep character study that impresses throughout.
familiar with The Cold war or Cold War cinema will know some of what is coming,
but it is refreshing that a piece about that era can still be done with
intelligence and suspense while reminding us of a period that is being
shockingly forgotten much too quickly and the danger of repeating the wrong
parts of the past.
of this German production is believable, terrific and helps make the impressive
screenplay all the more credible. Home
theater and film fans need to make this a must-see and its reputation is only
going to become greater and greater.
Along with Breach and The Good Shepherd, The Lives Of Others is another great Cold War film that can only
make me hope we are getting into a new cycle of suspense films. Don’t miss it!
2.35 x 1 digital High Definition is terrific, despite some minor
stylization. Director of Photography
Hagen Bogdanski shot this in real anamorphic Hawk Scope, which is why this is
immediately one of the best looking new films in either High Definition format
and is certain to be one of the one of the best Demo Blu-rays for years to
come. As compared to most overdigitized,
Super 35mm (especially genre films) releases, this will be a revelation. Other films like Alpha Dog (see my HD-DVD/DVD review on this site), Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace
(in its better shots), Blood Diamond
(see my HD-DVD review on this site), Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine and the grossly underrated House Of Mirth (which Sony should issue
on Blu-ray immediately) have all benefited from this underused, underrated
process. Bogdanski also gets the idea
that the wide scope frame does not necessarily mean freedom and though this
does not get as claustrophobic as The
Parallax View, the look and feel of the film is constantly involving.
versions offer Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, but the Blu-ray has a much better PCM
16/48 5.1 mix that is especially involving.
I also liked the character of the mix, the Gabriel Yared/Stéphane Moucha
score and other smart choices in scoring and sound effects. Though it does not try the sound mix moments
of The Ipcress File, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,
Coppola’s The Conversation or De
Palma’s Blow Out, it is up there
with such films where sound is an important factor. Extras include seven deleted scenes with and
without optional commentary, on camera interview and separate feature length
audio commentary with Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and a making of
- Nicholas Sheffo