18 June 2007

The Lives of Others

Shortly before the Academy Awards, we saw this German movie, which subsequently won the Oscar for best foreign film.

Deservedly. Can I say deservedly even though I didn't see the other candidates? Perhaps they were also deserving. Still, I think: yes.

This is an extraordinary movie that captures a time and place in which you had to take care with every word and act because someone might be watching.

In fact, someone was always watching.

The movie equally focuses on the watcher and the watched, rendering the watch-er human to us, while the watch-ee becomes human to the watcher. We see the sad results of failures of nerve, but also the possibility of transcending an immoral society via small moral acts. It's a virtue of this movie that it makes you hopeful about human nature without also worrying you about its naivety. On the contrary, The Lives of Others often feels almost grim and does not shrink from bad news.

The surprise is that bad news isn't all there is.

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