The Lives of Others
We had a young woman who happened to be visiting us in 1989 precisely when the wall came down in Berlin. She was from west Germany, but the demise of totalitarianism in the east was no less significant for her, and somehow my friendships forged with Germans over the years have made the subject of East Germany a more personal matter.
So it was that I looked forward to seeing "The Lives of Others" and finally was able to do so this past week when it came out on DVD. It was, for me, by far the best movie of the summer. Ironically, in a movie whose main text is presented as an expose of intrusive listening and the violation of privacy, the more powerful message of the movie was about seeing - in particular about the realities related to the subject of redemption. Why is it that some people can go along a certain track in their lives, a destructive track, and then suddenly see with great clarity - while others, party to the same data and revelations, never end up "seeing" and remain blind to their own oppressions, addictions, and destructive behaviors.
Of course, Jesus spoke of those who had eyes but could not see. What he never seems to explain adequately is the why of blindness. I know that he speaks of people's love of darkness rather than light - but that doesn't go deep enough. I know that he goes deeper and says, "because their deeds were evil" but even that doesn't really satisfy me. ALL of us do evil deeds - and yet some of us snap out of it - at least for a moment, perhaps for a lifetime. We step back and see what we're doing - see who we've become and recoil in horror. Or.... we never get it - remaining forever stuck in darkness.
I can't say much more without giving the movie away - but suffice it to say that it's about both listening and seeing - about when pragmatism must give way to authenticity, and the ethical dilemmas that surround us when we're making choices about how to behave in a world that is broken and fallen, even as we ourselves are broken and fallen.
I've been to East Germany - and had numerous conversations with people who grew up there. But I don't think this personal knowledge is the basis of appeal for me with this movie - it's the story - and all the questions it approaches without resorting to trite or preachy answers. I hope you'll watch it - and offer your answer to the question: Why do some see and others remain blind?