SPANKY: I know you like to go back over movies you saw at a certain time in your life, but most seem labored, dated.
JOHN: Not this one. It parallels a confusion about Vietnam we still suffer from. When I first saw the movie I wanted it to stick closer to Heart of Darkness which I had read. To see Brando at the end. Be moved by his words.
SPARKY: But now we see many more references to Kurtz throughout the film. The visuals are spectacular and at the end we do need someone of Brando’s stature.
JOHN: The fact that he doesn’t make any sense seems even more appropriate now than it did then.
SPARKY: We were looking for easy answers then.
JOHN: This is a masterpiece that goes beyond its time. The message: There is more to “the horror” than war. “The horror” is humanity.
SPARKY: Not something entertaining, but a film so important you have to watch it again. And again.
See it, see it, see it!
HOOK: George Orwell’s 1984, volume turned up.
STORY: ) Five years before its downfall, the former East-German government (known as the GDR, German Democratic Republic) ensures its claim to power with a ruthless system of control and surveillance via the Stasi, a vast network of informers that at one time numbered 200,000 out of a population of 17 million. Their goal is to know everything about “the lives of others.” In this film of drama and humanity, devoted Stasi officer and expert interrogator Wiesler is given the job of collecting evidence against the famous playwright Georg Dreyman.
GOSSIP: The Conversation was released just after the Watergate break-in, but it was written years before and was being shot when the news of the break-in first appeared. Ulrich Műhe who stars in this film died at 54 just as The Lives of Others was becoming an international success. He himself grew up in East Berlin and had been spied upon by informers while in school and later while working in the theater.
JOHN: If you liked Gene Hackman in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, you are going to love this film. There are similarities, The person listening to wire taps of the theatrical director leads a life so empty it echoes. The person who is under surveillance has his problems too but the connection between the two men (and the viewer, alone in a dark theater monitoring both) is greater than any political differences. I am reminded of the lines in the Frost poem “Death of a Hired Hand”: “Then there were three there, / making a dim row, The moon, the little silver cloud, and she.” This is the most powerful film I have seen in years, and the ending delivers an emotional punch that would tear down any wall.
GO GO GO GO (4 GOs out of four)
SPANKY: It’s that self-conscious theatrical allusion that makes this film raise the bar on the 1974 Coppola One. At one point Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Műhe) who looks a little like Kevin Spacey, steals a book from the playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), who looks like Antonio Bandaras by Bertol Brecht. Brecht was a proponent of dropping the fourth wall in plays, turning on the house lights and having the audience as well as the actors and playwright share in creating the experience. This film by first-time writier/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (which won the year’s best foreign film Oscar) does just that. My question: Would I get more respect if instead of “Spanky” my name were “Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck”?
“TWO PAWS UP” (4 BARKs out of four)
KEEPER: “Can anyone who has heard this music, I mean really heard it, be a bad person?”