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The Lives of Others(2006)
Set in East Berlin before the fall of the Wall, the East German government kept control over its citizens with a ruthless system of control and surveillance run by the all powerful Stasi. When a high–ranking politician cannot keep his eyes off a celebrated stage actress, State Security Captain Gerd Wiesler is briefed to set up strict surveillance on her boyfriend, the famous theatre director Georg Dreyman. The loyal Stasi man finds that the surveillance process gives him not just an intimate insight into the couple‘s lives but will change his own life irrevocably.
For more about The Lives of Others and The Lives of Others Blu-ray release, see The Lives of Others Blu-ray Review
Starring: Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Thieme
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
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The Lives of Others Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, August 25, 2010
Winner of Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "Das Leben der Anderen" a.k.a "The Lives of Others" (2006) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films-UK. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck; cast and crew interviews; extended and deleted scenes; making of featurette; and original Stasi devices gallery. In German, with optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others is about a group of people who make important discoveries during the final days of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). All of them are idealists.
Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch, Black Book) is the best playwright in the GDR. He is also one of a few playwrights whose work is closely followed by the press in West Germany. Dreyman is a passionate communist but his ideas are far more progressive than those of the political leaders in the GDR.
Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck, Summer of '04) is a talented, extremely beautiful actress. She is in love with Dreyman and the star of his latest play. Sieland isn't interested in politics but is well aware that she has to maintain a certain public image that would allow her to safely pursue her acting career.
Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muhe, Mein Fuhrer: The Truly Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler) works for Stasi, the secret police agency in the GDR. He is a highly talented interrogator, one of the very best Stasi have. Wiesler isn't married and is not in a relationship. He lives alone in a small, barely furnished apartment.
At the premiere of Dreyman's latest play, Wiesler suggests to his superior and close friend Anton Grubitz (Ulrich Tukur, John Rabe) to consider monitoring Dreyman. Before the night is over, Wiesler is ordered to supervise Dreyman's surveillance and report directly to Grubitz.
Meanwhile, during a post-premiere celebration Dreyman and Sieland are introduced to Minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme), a man with unlimited powers. Hempf is immediately impressed by Sieland's beauty and enormously annoyed with Dreyman.
Wiesler and his men wire Dreyman's apartment and begin recording everything. Daily reports are promptly delivered to Grubitz's desk. Hempf also begins seeing Sieland, even though she could barely stand him. Eventually, Sieland walks away and he orders Grubitz to find something proving that Dreyman isn't loyal to the Party.
Winner of Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007, The Lives of Others is a quiet, very intelligent film that accurately recreates the oppressive socio-political environment that was fostered in the GDR after the end of WW2. The key theme in it is morality.
The film effectively exposes the corrosive power of a regime that divided people into trusted informers and enemies - even within their own families. The ones who cooperated were given a chance to live a somewhat decent life. The ones who did not agree to cooperate either disappeared or committed suicide (as revealed in the film, GDR did indeed have the second highest suicide rate in the former Soviet Bloc; according to various sources, the country also had more than 200,000 registered informers).
Dreyman, Sieland, and Wiesler undergo serious character transformations after they realize that their lives and identities are being reshaped by a giant manipulative system. It is a painful but at the same time illuminating process which they are forced to endure. Muhe's transformation is the most powerful one in the film.
The acting is superb. Koch is fantastic as the open-minded playwright whose life slowly begins to collapse after the premiere of his latest work. Gedeck is also great as the ambitious actress faced with an impossible dilemma. The film, however, belongs to Muhe, a terrific actor who was born to play the quiet but merciless Stasi operative.
The Lives of Others Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films-UK.
This is a pleasing but rather inconsistent high-definition transfer. Generally speaking, fine object detail is good. Many of the daylight close-ups, for instance, look very strong. Contrast levels are also consistent throughout the entire film. The color-scheme does not disappoint either - grays, yellows, greens, browns, and blacks are rich and well saturated. Edge-enhancement, however, is often very easy to spot. During selected scenes I also noticed traces of mild to moderate noise reduction. Plenty of the fine film grain is also mixed with a good dose of light noise. Finally, I also noticed a small number of tiny flecks popping up throughout the entire film.
As far as I could tell, this high-definition transfer is very similar, if not identical, to the one used by Sony Pictures for the U.S. Blu-ray release of The Lives of Others -- I noticed the same traces of edge-enhancement and noise reduction. The same tiny flecks can be seen on the U.S. Blu-ray release as well.
(Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Lives of Others Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Lionsgate Films-UK have provided optional English and English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is solid. The bass is potent, the rear channels not overly active but effective, and the high-frequencies not overdone. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable and very easy to follow. There are no balance issues with Stéphane Moucha and Gabriel Yared's wonderful soundtrack either. Finally, while viewing the film I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts to report in this review.
The Lives of Others Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary - an audio commentary by writer and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. This is a terrific audio commentary, very much on par with the actual film. It is incredibly informative, well paced, moving, and genuinely entertaining. The director offers an excellent analysis of the now ex-Eastern Bloc, which puts in perspective a lot of the events seen in his film. I urge you to find the time to listen to this audio commentary. It is one of the very best to appear on Blu-ray. In English.
Extended and Deleted - a collection of deleted and extended scenes with optional audio commentary by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. In German, with optional English subtitles. (9 min, PAL):
-- Wiesler's Evening
-- Hoarding of Goods
-- Brecht's "Animal Poems"
-- Farewell to Jerska
-- The Cactus
-- PDS - Party of Democratic Socialism
Interviews - a collage of interviews with different cast and crew members. Ulrich Mühe's comments, in particular, are very interesting as he describes how he was a subject of constant monitoring by Stasi informers during the Cold War era. In German, with imposed English subtitles. (28 min, PAL).
Making of "The Lives of Others" - director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, producers Quirin Berg and Max Wiedemann, actors Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Mühe, and Ulrich Tukur, actress Martina Gedeck, and Prof. Dr. Manfred Wilke from the Univrsity of Berlin discuss the film's message. In German, with imposed English subtitles. (20 min, PAL).
Original Stasi Devices Gallery - a collection of different bugging and monitoring devices used by the Stasi operatives.
The Lives of Others Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's The Lives of Others is a wonderful film about a dream gone wrong. There is an important lesson to be learned from it. If you have not yet seen this film, I strongly encourage you to find the time and do so. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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