Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To HGW XX/7, with gratitude

Only seldom do we see a movie where we 'ooh' and 'aah' at the end and walk out of the movie hall pleased. And only once in a blue moon come those movies which leaves you mesmerized; no words can express the feeling you experience - exhilaration? happiness? bliss? I don't know!

The last time a movie's climactic scene left me in such a state was probably 'The Prestige' and the last such book was 'Vamshavrikhsa'. Yesterday, it was the outstanding movie 'The Lives of Others' (German:Das Leben der Anderen, starring Ulrich Mühe and Martina Gedeck) that left me failing for words.

The setting is in the Cold War days of totalitarian East Germany (GDR). The scene begins in 1984 (I thought this was a fantastic tribute to George Orwell's novel 1984!). Without revealing too much about the nitty gritty details, the plot revolves around the surveillence in GDR, how no one, not even the elite and trusted were spared. The Stasi (secret police) captain in charge of the covert surveillence of the pro-party writer Georg Dreyman (codenamed Lazlo) is Gerd Wiesler(played by the brilliant Ulrich Mühe). A pivotal role is played by Dreyman's girlfriend Crista-Maria Sieland (codenamed CMS played by Martina Gedeck of 'Mostly Martha' fame).

The loyal Stasi officer, in the course of the surveilance, experiences a complete change in his belief in the state. He understands that there is a devious motive behind the spying rather than 'state security' as announced. He becomes disillusioned in his nature of work, the The change in his character is one of the best parts of the movie.

I thought the movie was ending with the death of a principal character. No. It continues. Then I thought it was going to end at the Fall of the Berlin Wall. An ending here would have made it a great movie. But it is what continues after this that elevates this movie to a new level. The last few minutes of the movie are fascinating and truly marvelous! This is what is a truly rewarding movie watching experience according to me.

There are innumerable other small things that make this movie what it is. The surveillance equipment is all genuine - from collectors who have preserved it as it was. Ulrich Mühe himself was a subject of spying in the GDR. He recounts that he found out only later about his friends and colleagues who were spying on him. In fact, my belief that great movies can still win the Oscar has been revived since this movie won it in 2006 in the Foreign Film category. We can stop sending entries from India if they have to compete at this level!

Oh...and the title of this post is one of the most beautiful things about this movie. To understand its significance, watch the movie. I just can't praise it enough.