The Lives of Others

Some of the long-term members of the Tacoma Film Club probably remember our discussion of the Germain film, The Lives of Others, way back in 2007.  The film tells the story of a Stasi agent in former East Germany who has been given the job of conducting surveillance, including wiretapping, on a playwright and his lover. In the course of his job the Stasi agent decides to perform a small act of kindness towards the individuals under his surveillance. He does this simply because it is, in his mind, the right thing to do. This small act of kindness ends up putting him at great risk, as one unforeseen consequence leads to another, until he is forced eventually to perform many courageous heroic acts to protect those under his surveillance. Furthermore, those who he is protecting have no idea of the sacrifices he is making on their behalf. Years go by and he does not think anyone even knows what he did earlier in his life. In the last scene of the film, we see this character, many years later, walking slowly down a street, an anonymous member of the crowd. Then he comes upon a bookstore and sees a book in the window. The book tells the story of a hero, and the hero is him!

When we originally discussed the film, I related how its basic theme of redemption through remembrance resonates with me on a deep emotional level.  The publication of a new book, Waking Up Blind, has an eerie resemblance to this same theme. I was a witness to many of the events described in the book, and I draw some parallels between the underlying themes of the book and the film in an essay I posted on another blogsite.

Ron Boothe


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