The Lives of Others

Rated 4.0

In East Germany during the 1980s, an official of the secret police (Ulrich Mühe) is assigned to spy on a popular playwright (Sebastian Koch). This cold, methodical bureaucrat becomes interested in the man’s life and feels a furtive sense of humanity stirring within himself. Writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film has its plot twists and surprises, but he keeps them low-key and subtle, like the transformation that overcomes his protagonist. Von Donnersmarck offers a heartening, deeply human perspective on the inexorable crumbling of an oppressive tyranny—even one that seems like a good bet to last 1,000 years—culminating in an epilogue set after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the colors of a new day are finally beginning to warm the drab gray streets of East Berlin.