This film won an Oscar this year for best foreign language film. It should have been nominated for Best Picture. Here is an example of a rare movie treat. A mixture of dazzling character studies, political commentary and old fashioned suspense. The film is in German with sub titles...but don't let that put you off. I have not seen a better film this year. The actors are all veteran German artists. Ulrich Muhe and Sebastian Koch each have more than 50 movies to their credit. Martina Gedeck may be the only familiar face. She has made several films in America including The Good Shepherd. However it is Muhe who virtually steals this picture.

The setting is East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. East Germany is like Orwell's 1984. Big Brother is everywhere. No one is safe from the snooping. Muhe plays a dedicated snooper who is assigned to monitor a famous playwright played by Koch. Koch's girlfriend is his leading lady played by Gedeck. Koch seems to be on the government's side but since he is an "artist," he can't be trusted.

Muhe leads a lonely life. Unmarried, he has no visitors other than a prostitute who can't stay long because she has to service all the other agents in his building. Muhe starts out zealously pursuing his job. He soon discovers that the playwright is being monitored for reasons other than state security. This compromises his devotion to his mission. He becomes involved in the lives of the people he is monitoring.

When the playwright actually begins to write things that are a crime against the state, Muhe begins to alter his reports. He greatly admires Gedeck the actress, and even has the temerity to meet her and have a conversation with her. Later when he discovers she is about to betray her lover, Muhe is torn...not knowing what to do. He arrives at a solution that is a wonderful plot twist.

The Lives of Others is what all movies should be...intelligent, entertaining and engaging.






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