Sunday, February 11, 2007

A two movie day

It's been a few weekends now since I've been to see a movie to I decided to make up for it today and see two, and they were both really good.

The first, and my favourite, was The Lives of Others. It's a German-language film nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar and is set in East Berlin circa 1984, before the coming of Gorbachev and Glasnost. It's an era that has always held interest for me since I lived in West Germany from 1986 to 1990 as an Air Force Brat. I also went back to Germany in 1994 as an exchange student and took a trip to Berlin. Even though it was five years after the wall had fallen and Germany had been reunified, it still felt like I was in a different world walking around the Eastern half of the city, with the drab Soviet era buildings. It's hard to describe but it felt very grey, sombre.

So it's not that hard to imagine the East Berlin of 10 years earlier, when this movie is set. It tells the story of an agent of the oppressive East German secret police, the Stasi, assigned to spy on a prominent director and his actress wife. A very dour workaholic, as the agent listens to their every conversation and action he begins to bond with them, question what's missing in his own life, and question the motives of his superiors and the state he has dedicated his life to serving.

Besides the political intrigue it's a really good human story, forcing us to ask us just how far we're willing to go to get along, to play the game, work in the system, instead of standing out. It's an excellent movie, probably the best I've seen so far this young year, and I like it better than most of the best picture Oscar nominees I've seen this year.


Speaking of which, I also saw one of the best picture Oscar nominees today, The Queen. It's set in the days after the death of Princess Diana and chronicles the tug of war between a Royal Family clinging to tradition and a British people, led by new Prime Minister Tony Blair, demanding a more modern monarchy, and public mourning for the people's princess.

I enjoyed it. Helen Mirren was excellent as Queen Elizabeth; she'd be a very worthy winner of the best actress Oscar. I also enjoyed James Cromwell's portrayal of a slightly pathetic Prince Phillip. Michael Sheen's Tony Blair was passable, though I found the other Downing Street characters to be slightly one dimensional, and Cherie Blair came across looking like a dingbat.

It almost seemed like a tale of two movies. In the first half the royal family comes off very unsympathetically, as mean, cruel and uncaring; indifferent to Diana's death. In the second half it changes though, at least with the Queen, as Mirren's performance shows her struggling with the role she had thought she was to play in her country and the new demands the people seem to be making of her. This tug between the traditions she holds dear in her core, and the desires of the people she had dedicated her life to serving, you can see how it eats at her.

So, a very good film, but I'd still give Little Miss Sunshine the Oscar nod ahead of it. I haven't seen The Departed yet though, maybe next weekend.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Me thinks you mean HM, not HRH.