“The Lives of Others,” winner of this year's Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, will be screened starting at 7 p.m. Friday, June 1, Saturday the 2nd, Monday the 4th, and Tuesday, June 5 and at 2 p.m., Sunday, June 3 at the Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St.
The film takes place in a world of systematic terror and freezing paranoia, an informer's society of secret police and betrayers in Communist East Germany. The time is the Orwellian 1984, five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall — and the major characters, all fictional, are a celebrated East German playwright, Georg Dreyman (played by Sebastian Koch), his actress-mistress, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), some of Dreyman's dissident friends and the police who are watching them all.
Writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 33, grew up in West Berlin after spending some childhood years in East Berlin, and his portrayal of life in the East has a feeling of punctilious accuracy and dramatic truth. He shows us a world almost drained of color and richness, a realm of cold offices, sparely furnished apartments, empty streets and the bare little room where a member of the State Security, Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Muehe) sits huddled over his bugs and tape recorder, peeping on the lives of the “others.”
This movie works as a social and psychological drama and as a taut, tightly wired thriller. It was the big winner in last year's German film awards, winning “Lolas” for best picture, director, writer, actor and supporting actor.
A commentary on a dark and chilling period in German history, “The Lives of Others” is also an impassioned plea for human interconnectedness, compassion and respect for the rights of individuals. The narrative explores the nature of creativity and probes the soul-killing effects of tyranny.
Intellectually challenging and profoundly emotional, “The Lives of Others” is in German with English subtitles. It is rated R and has a running time of 2:17 minutes. Tickets are $5 general admission and $3 for students and senior citizens and are available at the door.
Details on this and other offerings at The Smith are available by visiting The Smith.