Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lives of others

This is a shameless plug intended to persuade you to go see "The Lives of Others" at the Carmike 7. It isn't likely to stay longer than a week, so hurry.

It's one of those movies we get so few of at local Carmike theaters: a subtitled foreign-language film that has won a pile of awards and great reviews, but doesn't draw the masses like the big summer movies do. It's highly worth seeing: a grim but undoubtedly accurate view of life in East Germany and the extraordinary ethical and moral pressure that country placed on its citizens. The acting is great, and the suspense builds steadily as the secret police close in on the dramatist at the center of the film. Well, not quite the center. That position belongs to a true believer, a dedicated socialist who begins to see the world in a new way. That's a vague description, but to say much more would begin to give away something that you should see for yourself.

German cinema has come a long ways since I lived over there. The number of worthy-to-excellent German films has expanded exponentially in recent years, from "Run, Lola, Run," to "Downfall" to "Stalingrad" to "Goodbye, Lenin," a comedy to which "The Lives of Others" provides a stern counterpoint. For me, popular German cinema used to pretty much begin and end with "Das Boot." This is a golden age.

Be prepared for the usual Carmike experience. A long string of commercials delayed the start, and a pile of boxes piled up near the stage blocked part of the subtitles for those who, like me, prefer to sit up close. I was actually kind of glad that the subtitles were hard to see, since that made me rely more on my German listening skills and less on my English reading skills. But it would annoy most people.

At the end, just as the credits began to roll, the screen inexplicably went blank. I particularly wanted to see who did the music, but no such luck. No final credits, and the lights didn't even come on. The handful of viewers had to stumble out in the dark. But at least we had a couple of hours of light.

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