Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Get A Lives

Remember how I raved about the movie Pan’s Labyrinth a few months back? That movie was clearly a favorite to win Best Foreign Film in the 2006 Academy Awards. Yesterday I watched the movie that beat it in that category, and I realized why it won.

The Lives of Others is a movie aptly set in 1984 East Germany, several years before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Back then the communist regime deployed the Stasi, their secret police, to monitor their citizens. The movie focuses on one Stasi agent, Wiesler (played with pitch-perfect stoicism by the late Ulrich Mühe) who is tasked to spy on a playwright, Georg Dreyman, and his lover Christa-Maria Sieland, a prominent stage actress.

In the making of documentary, writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck described what inspired his feature film debut. He recalled an anecdote about Lenin who said that while Beethoven’s “Appassionata” was an astounding miracle of art, he couldn’t bear to listen to it anymore because it made him want to pat people’s heads instead of bashing them mercilessly. Donnersmarck suddenly had this image of a man with headphones spying on his enemies but what he is hearing instead is beautiful music that touches and transforms him.

Pan’s Labyrinth works on several levels, shifting from the real to the fantastical. But I think the more difficult tightrope act was done in The Lives of Others. That director Donnersmarck manages to pull it off with maximum restraint and a discipline worthy of the Stasi is even more remarkable.

The twisty tale that unravels should be savored fully, so I won’t take away from you guys the joy of discovering a complex, multi-layered movie that’s as much a meditation on art and humanity as it is a gripping suspense thriller. Instead, I admonish you: watch this and I’ll pat you in the head; fail to watch and I’ll smash your head in.


BoobooStrider said...

Hey! Where'd you buy it?

joelmcvie said...

@BOOBOOSTRIDER: Unfortunately I did not buy a copy. My friend just came back from the U.S. and he was the one who bought the DVD there (original, no less). But since it's out on DVD, I'm pretty sure a pirated version is just there somewhere in Metrowalk or Makati Cinema Square. :-)

BoobooStrider said...

okies.. i guess i will have to brave the crowded halls of makati square again..

thanks for adding me will add your link to mine too :)

Anonymous said...

hmmnnn,sa Quiapo ako mag check ng title na yan,hehehe (sorry Mr. Edu!)