German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s thriller smuggles you back into 1984 East Germany, five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Cars, buildings, clothing bear witness to a vanished time few ever witnessed first-hand. We get a privileged view of the secretive and omnipotent East German Secret Police (“Stasi”). Ruthless and fish-eyed Stasi captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muehe) listens in (with period-piece headphones and tape deck) on playwright Georg Dreymen (Sebastian Koch) for suspected treason.
As if following a book on tape, Wiesler listens attentively and is sucked into Georg and his girlfriend actress’s lives, which he finds infinitely more interesting than his own. When Georg’s girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck) leaves their apartment to sleep with a Stasi minister to ensure her acting career, Wiesler risks his own career to protect the couple. Just when the movie seems to come to a natural close, von Donnersmarck allows us to see Georg and Wiesler’s lives after the fall of the Wall. A beautifully acted work of love, jealousy, ambition, betrayal and history.