It certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Scooping up awards left, right and centre (including an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film), directorial debutant von Donnersmarck’s study of life, love and political struggle in 80’s East Germany comes to these shores with a hefty reputation. It certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Centring on the Stasi’s (state security) surveillance of a successful playwright (the excellent Sebastian Koch, last seen in Verhoeven’s Black Book) and his actress girlfriend (Martina Gedek), the plot follows stasi ‘man in grey’ Wiesel (Ulrich Muhe, marvelously intense) as he becomes more and more attracted to the couples’ glamorous way of life…

Despite the impressive 137 min running time the movie never outstays its welcome. Superbly paced and wonderfully acted, the film has an intelligence and subtlety that is lacking far too often in mainstream cinema. As a quietly powerful study of a sometimes overlooked and misunderstood time in recent German history The Lives of Others cannot be recommended enough.

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