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Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

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.