The very first word that came to my mind after watching this German movie was: ‘Beautiful’. Even though the movie does not talk about anything pretty, it left me with a nice feeling, not unlike the way I felt on watching ‘Life is beautiful’.
Set in East Germany during 1984, the movie depicts the world of Big Brother, where the GDR police Stasi monitors the private life of people, particularly the literary people. An ardent communist, Gerd Wiesler, is assigned the task of spying on a writer and gather evidence against him. In the process of listening to the writer’s private world, Gerd slowly gets involved into it and attempts to save him from Stasi’s wrath.
Of course the movie is an attack on the hypocrisy and corruption rampant in an all powerful party, but more importantly it is also a story of transformation. It shows the transformation of the writer from a neutral man concerned only with his cultural activities into a man angry and rebellious against the governance. And it shows the subtle transformation of Gerd from a stringent communist to a compassionate human being – his transformation manifesting itself a little after each session of listening in to the writer’s house. Ulrich Mühe as Gerd has acted brilliantly, speaking as few words as possible and acting only through his eyes.
It is peculiar how the movie is based in 1984 – it reminded me strongly of the ‘1984’ that Mr. Orwell conceptualized. Only he did it many years before the actual Big Brother found his way into real lives. It is ironical that a Big brother did hold people’s lives in its grasp in the very year that this great author predicted.
The movie won the Academy award for Best foreign film this year, and even though I haven’t watched any other nominations, I feel confident to say that it was not an undeserving Oscar like a few others that find their way unjustly into the list.