"Doing Good Is Its Own Reward"
What You Need To Know:
THE LIVES OF OTHERS is an excellent movie that flirts with greatness. It has a very strong anti-Communist message which shows how evil Communism and socialism are, but it has strong sexual content and explicit nudity. Thus, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution, even for adults.
(Ro, ACACAC, BB, PaPa, L, V, SS, NN, A, D, M) Light Romantic worldview with very strong anti-Communist message that is moral but mitigated by strong sexual content; three obscenities (no "f" words) and zero profanities; character hit by van in fatal accident; strong sexual content includes couple living together are depicted fornicating, man depicted having fornication with prostitute, implied fornication when another man fondles woman and partially undresses before camera cuts away, and implied fornication between couple living together; upper female nudity in three scenes, woman in bra in another scene, and partial rear male and female nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality such as Communist interrogator won't let victim sleep so that victim confesses what he wants to know, Communist official blackmails woman into letting him rape her, and betrayal ends in tragedy.
German cinema is showing an international resurgence these days. Some of the best movies in recent years have been German ones, and some of these have had strong Christian content and/or have had something morally uplifting to say. THE LIVES OF OTHERS is one of these. Though it has no overt Christian content, it is a strong condemnation of the Communist regime in East Germany, which ended on Nov. 4, 1989 when the Berlin Wall was torn down.
The movie opens in 1984. Captain Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler is one of the top interrogators and teachers for the East German secret police, the Stasi. Both Wiesler and a fat former Stasi officer-turned-minister named Hempf believe that playwright Georg Dreyman is not as committed to the socialist state as he seems. So, Wiesler’s superior and friend, Lt. Col. Grubitz, orders Wiesler to lead the secret wiretap investigation of Dreyman and his live-in girlfriend, a popular actress named Christa-Maria Sieland.
Wiesler is fascinated by and attracted to Christa from afar, but he is shocked to learn that Hempf has been forcing Christa to cheat on Georg to save her career. The death of a blacklisted mentor shocks Georg into writing an explosive anti-Communist article in a famous West German magazine. Wiesler tries to protect both Christa and Georg secretly, but his efforts have a bittersweet, tragic outcome.
The message of THE LIVES OF OTHERS is that Communism and state-run socialism are so evil and pernicious that even those who try to do good can become trapped. In one of the most moving endings in recent memory, the movie also shows that doing good is its own reward, no matter the consequences. That message is reinforced when the playwright, Georg, writes a novel, dedicated to Wiesler, titled “Sonata to a Good Man,” based on a musical gift given to Georg by his blacklisted mentor before the mentor committed suicide.
Ulrich Muehe is brilliant as the conflicted Capt. Wiesler, and MOVIEGUIDE® Award-winning actor Ulrich Tukur is equally good as the outgoing Lt.-Col. Grubitz. The rest of the cast, including Sebastian Koch as the playwright and Marttina Gedeck as the tragic Christa-Maria, is excellent as well.
THE LIVES OF OTHERS is a powerful, intensely poignant movie that flirts with greatness. Regrettably, however, there are two strong scenes of extra-marital sex, plus some nudity and other sexual content. This shows that, despite the movie’s explicit contention that there can be such a thing as “a good man,” no one is truly good. As Psalm 14:1:3 and Romans 3:12 both say, “There is no one who does good, not even one.”
Thus, although THE LIVES OF OTHERS has a very strong anti-Communist message, its worldview is a Romantic one without God. There are two references to the East German state’s persecution of Christians and churches, but they are minor references.