Film Reflection: The Lives of Others

First off, the film was very powerful. It centered around the suspense and terror under the Stasi in East Germany (the GDR), and I felt that the movie mirrored the feelings of those in Germany by never having the audience know for sure what was going on. Germans needed to be cautious and reserved because they did not know who they could speak to or what would be wrong to say, and we feel on-edge with them throughout the film, right from the beginning interrogation scene. Though these concepts seem stagnant, the film kept up the pace by making scenes short and full of action (instead of dialogue). The acting was subtle, and very appropriately so given the amount of secrecy and anxiety of the period. That the movie was spoken entirely in German made complete immersion into the world of 1980's East Germany possible.

Through the artistic viability of the piece, the film conveyed to me the scars that are left on Germany (as on many countries other than the U.S.) from dictatorships and encroachment of civil liberties. In the U.S., we do not necessarily have a time in our country's history since independence (except perhaps the South during the Civil War) in which our democracy itself was compromised. Things were generally done with the consent of the people, and even if it wasn't Americans were able to speak their thoughts and work for change soon to come. This gives American a certain ownership of the country and allows for a pride in our country that we still see today.

In Germany, the feelings are not the same. Histories such as the Nazi party and the GDR's Stasi are burned in the national memory as times when the general populace was barely able to fight back, constantly dealing with the desire to act and the threat of the consequences. These situations can leave a feeling of disconnection from the country and emphasize the self, the only thing they could partly manage to control in such times. As we talked about in class, German national pride is out-of-place and nationalism is associated with the Nazis. In Germany, the praise more often goes to individuals. Individuals like Wielser and Dreyman who acted against the government's acts of terror. This informs a sense of duty that I see in German community organizations and the grant system for funding these endeavors. It is less about what Germany has done than what its people can do now. The ability to get government funding for a project and reach a specific goal is part of this pragmatic, purposeful work that happens through community organizations. Yet, this also can leave populations at risk who could use large-scale, organized aid because the government is not inclined to take the initiative and assume full responsibility over the situation. They generally stick to the bureaucratic rules. People may feel that the migrants can survive without the country's help as Germans have had to do many times before. While the individual work deserves respect and acknowledgment, it is important to realize the quantity of work that needs to be provided for when the government is limited in its response to events such as the refugee crisis.