November 8, 2009

The Lives of Others

Twenty years ago, citizens of East Germany destroyed the Berlin Wall and set off a series of revolutions that demolished the totalitarian police states of Europe.

Like me, you probably won't be able to fly to Berlin to commemorate the anniversary this week. Might I suggest a film, then, if you'd like to mark the date?

If you haven't yet seen it, pick up or rent a copy of The Lives of Others, about East German civilians under surveillance by Stasi agents. It's one of the best films I've ever seen, and certainly the best film ever made about communism.

As many as 100 million people were murdered by communist regimes in the 20th century, but Hollywood is strangely uninterested in the topic. Perhaps one day Steven Spielberg will tackle Stalinism as he did Nazism. Until then, The Lives of Others is the film to watch, and what better time than the twentieth anniversary of the wall's destruction in Germany?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 8, 2009 7:27 PM

But, but there are dissenting voices...

(but...and another but)...

...where dissent is still possible....

Posted by: Barry Meislin Author Profile Page at November 9, 2009 2:04 AM

Soviet Communism does not seem to attract the same condemnation that Nazism does. I think this is largely due to the fact that the Soviets won and the Nazis lost in WW2.

History is written by the winners.

Posted by: kurt9 Author Profile Page at November 9, 2009 1:31 PM

Great film indeed.

The actor who portrayed the Stasi officer with the change of heart (Ulrich Mühe) died only a year after the film's release unfortunately from cancer.

Posted by: jon r Author Profile Page at November 9, 2009 4:14 PM

From Barry's second link:

"They felt that West simply swallowed East and in the process discarded 40 years of mostly bad but some good policies."

...umm, yeah, that's like the classic defense of Mussolini: "At least he made the trains run on time."

Posted by: gus3 Author Profile Page at November 9, 2009 7:33 PM

"certainly the best film ever made about communism"

That's a mighty big assertion considering all the great Polish films from people like Wajda and Kieslowski. "No Way Out" is a great Polish film by Kieslowski from the 1980s about a man and what happens to him in 3 alternative life choices - Communist, dissident and apathetic citizen. And of course the new Wajda film about Katyn is supposed to be excellent. The Czech film "Kolya" is also very good. "The Lives of Others" has the best soundtrack though.

Posted by: Ivan N Author Profile Page at November 11, 2009 7:28 AM

I had some difficulty with the theme in The Lives of Others of linking artistic taste with moral insight. At a time when a poet is on trial for genocide, the flattering notion that cultured people are somehow morally superior should be disposed of, or at least not be so readily accepted.

Posted by: kellie Author Profile Page at November 12, 2009 5:30 AM

The Black Book of Communism (written in French, translated and published by Harvard University Press) puts the number murdered by Communists at 120,000,000. Since the authors/editors were leftist and Communists to begin with, I would expect that their numbers are low. 170,000,000 is another figure I've seen. Compare to the Nazis number of 12,500,000 to 25,000,000.

Of course, the count from Cuba and Latin America isn't in yet.

Posted by: Steamboat Jack Author Profile Page at November 23, 2009 4:33 PM

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Posted by: Bob Khoury Author Profile Page at November 30, 2009 1:27 PM
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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