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florian henckel von donnersmarck

Review: Summer Holiday Round-up (2010/11)

By Cinema and Reviews

This year the sum­mer hol­i­days seemed to have been owned by the unlikely fig­ure of T.J. Miller, dead­pan comedi­an, sup­port­ing act­or and eer­ily famil­i­ar back­ground fig­ure. In Yogi Bear he was the ambi­tious but dim deputy park ranger eas­ily duped by Andrew Daly’s smarmy Mayor into help­ing him sell out Jellystone to cor­por­ate log­ging interests, in Gulliver’s Travels he was the ambi­tious but as it turns out dim mail room super­visor who pro­vokes Jack Black into pla­gi­ar­ising his way into a fate­ful travel writ­ing gig and in Unstoppable he’s the slightly less dim (and cer­tainly less ambi­tious) mate of the doo­fus who leaves the hand­brake on and then watches his enorm­ous freight train full of tox­ic waste roll away.

So, a good sum­mer for T.J. Miller then, what about the rest of us?

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Review: The Lives of Others and three more...

By Cinema and Reviews

"The Lives of Others" posterIn the amus­ingly mis-named German Democratic Republic, dur­ing the last years before the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was re-unified, the people were mon­itored for idea­lo­gic­al and polit­ic­al pur­ity by the Stasi, or Secret Police. Astonishingly, there were 90,000 officers in the Stasi and hun­dreds of thou­sands more were paid inform­ants, keep­ing them­selves out of jail or set­tling old scores. A deeply para­noid polit­ic­al élite learnt its philo­sophies and its prac­tice from the Nazis they had over­thrown and an ill-timed joke could see the end of a career or the start of a spell in sol­it­ary confinement.

The awful­ness and absurdity of the situ­ation is bril­liantly painted in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s thrill­er The Lives of Others, the best Foreign Film Oscar-winner in years. Set in the late 1980’s, as even the most loy­al of state ser­vants and pat­ri­ots are los­ing their faith, state-sanctioned play­wright Dreyman, played by Sebastian Koch, is shaken by the sui­cide of his black-listed dir­ect­or, Jerska. He writes an art­icle on sui­cide stat­ist­ics in the GDR to be smuggled out to the West, not real­ising that his flat is being mon­itored 24/7 by the Stasi. Luckily, his main voyeur (Wiesler, a lovely per­form­ance by Ulrich Mühe) is hav­ing com­plex second thoughts of his own.

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