Last night Middlebrow and I finally got around to watching "The Lives of Others" which had been languishing in the basement for weeks. Weeks! We hadn't watched it because it's so long, but finally a few uninterrupted hours stretched before us, so we opened a bottle of wine and settled in for some movie watching/reading.
I love foreign films. I sometimes think that I might absorb some language just by hearing it. This seldom really works.
I really liked this movie for many reasons. It was slow, dialogue driven with complex characters who struggled against their circumstances. The movie was about making art and following rules and breaking rules and being a good person or being a bad person in bad circumstances.
What I liked most was how an unsympathetic character becomes sympathetic over time. Watching this movie, I felt like one of the reasons Americans often fail to make Important Art is because we don't really have a lot of environmental challenges. I don't mean global warming. I mean institutions and societies that imprison us. Regimes that silence us.
Obviously one could argue that the "regime" we live under now attempts, daily, to silence and imprison. And, no doubt, some great art will be made in the aftermath of this war.
But, culturally, Americans are forbidden to do very little. I do remember the woman who rolled in chocolate (what a waste of chocolate. Unless someone licked it off...) and The Piss Christ. But really, weren't those just attempts to provoke a conservative administration? Were they really "art"? Or attempts at "art"? (That is, were the artists trying to do something aesthetically or were they just trying to make a statement?)
What I mean is, most Hollywood movies gloss over the difficult moments, the repressive institutions, the awkward silences and difficult decisions. At one point in the movie MB commented, "At this point, the Hollywood movie would turn the plot into a chase scene, lots of shooting." American movies often substitute the big explosion for the subtle change.
I even liked the ending of this movie, though for a few moments I was afraid it was going to have a dark, depressing ending and I was going to be mad. But a few friends had said they loved the end, so I held my breath and waited. And it was good.
A very satisfying, moving film. Five stars!