The Lives of Others, a PPLL edition

Following my pattern of occasional pre pension library loan reviews, is this Oscar winner for best foreign film in 2007, The Lives of Others. Both a V.I.P and a P.I.P recommended this film which always makes it a bit tenuous to review.

First a bookend coincidence to the day I watched the film: the morning of, I was listening to WSLR while run/walking the Ringling Bridge. Tuesday mornings on WSLR is a show called Soul School with Troy, where r&b tunes from the past make me smile with bittersweet nostalgia throughout my workout.

One of my many random thoughts while running was if only the most recent San Bernadino shooter had been listening to live Luther Vandross or Prince, perhaps he wouldn’t have committed a violent act, which led to a thought about musical chip brain implants to prevent violence…ok Big Brotherish I realize.

The strange coincidence which occurred the same evening following the film happened when I watched the director’s comments (perhaps one of the longest names I’ve ever typed: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck) when he described his inspiration after hearing someone ponder whether listening to Bach could have stopped the Stasi from committing some of their evil acts. Spooky, right?

At any rate, I found The Lives of Others moving, but not better than say a more recent German film nominated for an Academy Award: Toni Erdmann. BUT, I believe this is a gender difference and not a fault of the film. And true confession, I was interrupted a few times in viewing, hence my concentration was not 100%. But to my gender difference point, the end sum of The Lives of Others is that one man saved another, so there’s a subtext of a bromance in this film. This is NOT a criticism, but perhaps the reason the film appealed to two men I know. Likewise, Toni Erdmann had a female centric story, and yet did not involve a woman saving another however, which is probably why I liked it, as I’ve always had more comfort in the friendship of men.

What I did love about the film were the three main actors; Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muhe (my favorite of the three) and Sebastian Koch, the latter of which I am super excited about his participation in a film version of the musically moving Ann Patchett book, Bel Canto. THAT I will see in a heart beat.

What possibly could have moved the movie from good to great for me also smacks of gender bias; I would have liked more love scenes between Martina and Sebastian’s characters increasing my angst if and when they were torn apart (no spoilers, right? though surely the statue of limitations is up on a film this old). The sex montage scene nor the brief affectionate encounters didn’t provide enough of the intimacy I needed to buy in. Though perhaps this simply reveals a subconscious need which until recently has been a deficit, which in turn makes me very much like the character played by Ulrich Muhe. Who needs Freud?:)

My next PPLL review will be of Mildred Pierce, which is in my current Joan Crawford/Bette Davis fixation ever since liking the FX show Feud, inspired by the iconic “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”.

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