The Stasi Who Came in From the Cold

Listening in on The Lives of Others

In his broad outlines, Wiesler calls to mind Clerici, the similarly repressed fascist functionary at the center of Alberto Moravia's novel The Conformistand Bernardo Bertolucci's famous film adaptation. Only, where Clerici systematically (and all too believably) betrayed those closest to him, Wiesler sticks his neck out for people he barely knows. He's a hero instead of an antihero, which is, I suppose, part of what gives The Lives of Others its popular appeal. That, and Donnersmarck's unwavering belief in the essential goodness of mankind, despite so much evidence to the contrary. The Lives of Others wants us to see that the Stasi—at least some of them—were, like their Gestapo brethren, "just following orders." You can call that naive optimism on Donnersmarck's part, or historical revisionism of the sort duly lambasted by the current film version of Alan Bennett's The History Boys. I, for one, tremble at the thought of what this young director does for an encore. Coming soon to a theater near you: Adolf Hitler: I Am Not an Animal!

THE LIVES OF OTHERS WAS WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY FLORIAN HENCKEL VON DONNERSMARCK; AND PRODUCED BY QUIRIN BERG AND MAX WIEDEMANN. AT EDWARDS WESTPARK, IRVINE.

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