One of the things I love about living in the city is the access to movies, concerts and theatre. I've mentioned before that I belong to a cinema group. This week, we watched the powerful Australian movie September. A very restrained and moving account of a friendship between a white boy and an Aboriginal boy in Western Australia in 1968.
The theatre was packed an this was the main attraction. A lot of people didn't stay for the second movie, but boy, they missed a treat. This time we watched The Lives of Others, a German film that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film last year.
It is set in East Germany in 1984 (the likeness of Orwell's novel 1984 is quite scary) and it's about a Stasi agent, Wiesler, who must to spy on a playwright (Dreyman) and his actress girlfriend, because the playwright is suspected of seditious intent.
I have to say, I've found a new actor to swoon over in Sebastian Koch, who played Dreyman. I've since watched him in the Dutch movie Black Book and he was dreamy in that, too.
But what I found totally compelling about The Lives of Others was the change that occurred Wiesler as he listens in to every aspect of the playwright's life.
As Anthony Lane says in his article in The New Yorker...
'See him crouched in a loft above Dreyman’s home with a typewriter, a tape deck, and headphones clamped to his skull. Watch the nothingness on his face as he taps out his report on the couple’s actions: “Presumably have intercourse.” '
Slowly, the tables turn. Wiesler listens to a conversation between Dreymann and a director he reveres. He is privy to Dreyman's grief when this director commits suicide. He listens to Dreyman play the piano -- A Sonata for A Good Man and tears stream down his face. Eventually, he steals Dreyman’s copy of Brecht and takes it home to read; he starts to omit details in his official account; and, for some fathomless reason—guilt, curiosity, longing—he lets the lives of others run their course.
It's the step by step transformation of his personality that fascinated me. Wiesler changes from a machine, faithful to the party, to a human with a conscience, facing new moral dilemmas he wouldn't have formerly considered.
I know I write 50,000 romance novels that must steer a fairly tight course, but I found so much to learn about character growth in this movie. I hope some of it translates into my books somewhere.... sometime...