The Lives of Others - 9 pm - Elgin Theatre, 9/7
Sometimes you just luck into movies. "The Lives of Others" was a second choice selection of mine. The first choice was "The Bothersome Man". When I went to pick up my tickets on Thursday, I noticed that "The Bothersome Man" was still available so I picked it up. I was excited to get my 1st pick back. I only chose "The Lives of Others" b/c it was playing at the Elgin, a large seating capacity. As the day progressed, I began reading more and more about "Lives" and eventually came to the decision that I should again reverse course and go back to my second choice. So I did.
The director/writer, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, and star, Ulrich Muehe, were in attendance. From the Q&A:
- This is a very personal film for me and for those involved. It was an emotional rollercoaster when I was writing the screenplay because on one day I would meet with people whose lives were destroyed by these secret police, the Stasi; and then the next day I would meet the people who had done these very things and hear their side. It was important to me to get a feeling for both sides. That work payed off because this story then attracted the staff and actors who wanted to be a part of this and for this story to be told.
- For example, the property master was someone who during the time that this movie was set, had expressed discontent at living in the GDR at that time. One of the people he told it to was an informer which led to him being arrested and being placed for two years in a Stasi prison, subjected to several of the interrogations and humiliations that you see in this film. For him it was very important that this story be told. His contribution was going to be that he didn't want to recreate or rebuild any of the equipment that was used in the past. Instead he went to museums and other places and found the real things. All bugs, tape recorders, etc. in the film are the real things.
- He said without Ulrich Muehe's involvement the film wouldn't have gotten made. "Great actors are the real producers of movies. They decide what gets done. For doing it he had to confront demons of his past. He was under tight survellience since high school b/c the Statsi knew he would be big.
The film is set in 1984, in East Germany where the Stasi's and its informers goal is to know everything about the lives of others to make sure there is no dissent for the government. Capt. Wiesler is a chief interrogator and devoted officer who will go 12 straight hours with a suspect if that's what it takes to break him. When Wiesler and his boss, Lt.-Col. Grubitz go to the latest play by George Dreyman, who is one of the few "trusted" writers left in the GDR, Wiesler gets a sneaky feeling. He feels that Dreyman isn't all he's made out to be. Soon he is put in charge of bugging the man's house and its subsequent survelliance. Higher ups in the government want Dreyman exposed as a dissident. As the story plays out, Wiesler basically holds Dreyman's future in his hands.
The acting is great and you can see Wiesler's struggle as his ideals slowly get blurred by his fascination with the writer. There is geniune suspense in wondering how the twists and political motivations will play out, despite the fact that there is no real action in the film. The film was a wonderful surprise.
The film WILL play in the U.S. if for no other reason than it is being distributed by Sony Pictures Classic. They know how to market a film. I don't, however, believe it's going to play beyond the art houses. It will have to get nominated for an Academy Award, if not win it, before I can see it playing at local cinemas. Still this is one to remember come award season.
As for "Borat", I was completely unsuccesful in my attempt to get tickets to the screening. As far as the RUSH line goes, ONLY 4 people got in. So if you were not in line at 5 p.m., you were out of luck. I did get pictures of Borat's crazy arrival. He came in on a mule driven carriage. There was only one problem. The mule was IN the carriage with him. Instead four hefty peasant women were pulling him in. We were not told our bad luck about tickets till 12:30 am. Also, from all I've heard, the screening ended up being canceled due to projector problems. Still, it sounds like Borat did his best to keep the audience entertained as did audience member Michael Moore. The experience still would have been wild. The show has been moved to tonight at midnight at The Elgin. The Elgin actually seats more people, but there is no way that I'm missing "The Host."