Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Claustrophobia, there's too much paranoia

Movies about the Cold War tend to focus on countries on failed wars or countries spying on other countries. The Lives of Others deals with incredibly invasive East German State and in particular the odious Stasi.

Adding German efficiency to Communist authoritarian paranoia, the Stasi used hundreds of thousands of informants to spy on its own citizens. A favorite tactic was to coerce people to spy on their friends and family. The mental anguish and psychological torture was widespread.

While the film focuses on a single case, it effectively shows the scale of the activities and the light-hearted view the agents take to their cruelty. One senior officer gleefully notes that dissident artists of a particular type tend never to create again after a certain form of isolation treatment.

The plot concerns a writer that is targeted because a government official lusts after his girlfriend. The Stasi is sent to listen in to find a reason to put him in jail. A suspenseful story develops as the agent's reactions to his assignment become precarious. All of the characters lives show the difficulty of remaining good in an evil system.

Tina Rosenberg wrote an excellent book on the dealing with the after-effects of so much oppression in the Haunted Land. The stories of broken lives in East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia are tragic.

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