Outstreched arm

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Lives of Others is captivating

Ever since Dana Stevens called the excellent German movie The Lives of Others "the best surveillance movie since The Conversation" my cognitive muscle has been itching to see it. Coppola's The Conversation, its inspiration, Antonioni's Blow-Up, and another homage, De Palma's Blow Out are a fascinating trio of films about Hitchcockian characters who find themselves entangled in something more than their obsessive, nerdy natures are prepared for. Watch them back to back, starting with Coppola, who puts together a minimalist character study; move on to De Palma's entertaining bit of film-student/slasher/audio geek nerdvana, and end with Antonioni's post-everything meta-trip. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's - don't you just love that name? - The Lives of Others would make a decent addition, but it's a different movie: political and psychological to a degree none of the above three gets into.

I can't add much to Dana Stevens' excellent summary and notes, so go read it. The film is quite expertly done, with that effortless European gravitas. It's not afraid to go big when the themes warrant it - you just know a shot of crying over a piano piece would seem cheap in a Hollywood flick. Not here - Germans are known for holding back their emotions when they probably shouldn't, so showing them works better than expected. Even the last scene's triple pun is endlessly likable.


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