Poignant Performance

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Part Four of the movie, The Lives of Others

In The Lives of Others, Sebastian Koch’s performance as Georg Dreyman, the playwright, rightfully commanded generous praise. But Ulrich Mühr’s portrayal of Gerd Weisler, the dutiful Stasi officer, is especially poignant. Of course his lines were written by the playwright, but Mühr brought a depth to those lines that few others could muster. He had actually lived in East Berlin during the era of its soul crushing culture, almost as if he had been groomed for this particular role. After 1989, any East Berliner was allowed to read the files that the Stasi had made and kept on him during the previous decades. When Mühe took that step, he discovered that some of his best friends and – even his own wife – had regularly informed the secret police about his private activities. He knew the story from the inside out.

At the start, Weisler is one of the villains – a protector of the oppressive state. As a true believer, he reminds one of a teacher who sternly disciplines unruly students because of an ardent belief they need tough love to change from bitter rebellion to contented obedience.

The devoted Stasi officer appears to be a good soldier, eager to perform well. Gerd Weisler understands that while the government edicts may appear somewhat harsh, he accepts their usefulness in achieving a greater good – the Utopian State offering multiple benefits to its citizens.

But it is his earnest, scrupulous work performance itself that forces new paradigms onto his rather narrow worldview. While spying on Koch and his circle of friends, Weisler is exposed to poetry that speaks to a man’s soul, to music that stirs up inexplicable aspirations, and to observing men who live for the joy of self expression. Those ideas and emotions awaken him to an existence far above and beyond achieving measurable quotas or writing reports just to gain favor with one’s superiors. Gerd finally glimpses life as lived outside the narrow boundaries of political correctness.

As Gerd Weisler began to secretly help fellow human beings instead of focusing on precisely fulfilling assignments for the demanding State, he discovers that his assignment to follow Koch’s private life had nothing to do with building the utopia he had defended and worked toward for years. Instead the entire project was designed and executed merely to help a higher official seduce a woman who had caught his fancy.

His immediate superior chides him for going soft by asserting that the state had taken good care of its citizens, “All was good in our little republic.”

To which Gerd Weisler tersely replied, “To think that people like you once ran a country.”

The award winning movie certainly adds credence to Dostoevsky’s statement: “Beauty can change the world.”

Copyright by Kaye Fairweather 2017

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