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Marylynn Huggins

FLM 1070-004
May 7, 2016
Mid-Term: Sequence/Clip Film Analysis
Ideological Change

This paper will look at one aspect of the ideology and cultural conditions in the German
Democratic Republic (GDR) prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. There was a great deal of
repression throughout the country, and that was manifest in a lack of trust. Whether that lack of
trust was with the government, the Stassi, neighbors, or society as a whole, people lived their
lives always wary of everything they did and how they expressed themselves. (Wensierski) The
constant state of surveillance created a population very set in their ways.

In the foreign film, Lives of Others, 2006, the director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, takes
a closer look at this way of life and questions the ability for one person to break free of this
ideology. Is it really possible for an individual to truly experience a personal change from within
so that their life is transformed forever? Throughout the film the director is trying to make the
point that people can change. In the beginning of the film theres a scene where the Minister of
Culture, Bruno Hempf, and Georg Dreyman, a play-write who is considered a loyal citizen, are
having a conversation. Hempf claims, thats what we all love about your plays. Your love
for mankind, your belief that people can change. But he finishes his thought with this
statement, Dreyman, no matter how often you say it in your plays, people do not change!

Throughout the film we see subtle changes taking place with the way the protagonist, Gerd
Wiesler, an officer with the Stasi, deals with the harsh realities of his position in the East German
secret police. At first he is very strict, not only does he adhere to the methods used, but in an
early scene he is shown teaching students how to implement Stasi methods of interrogation to
extract the truth from suspects. In another scene hes attending a theatrical production of
Dreymans play, Lives of Others, and hes the one who brings into question the possibility of
wrong-doing on the part of Dreyman.

As surveillance begins we see Wiesler getting to know more about Dreyman and his partner,
Christa-Maria Sieland, who happens to be an actress. Wiesler learns that Christa is the target of a
lustful affair with Hempf, and that Dreyman is viewed as a rival who needs to be done away
with, not for any wrongdoing, but simply so the Minister can have the girl. At this point, it
becomes apparent that the idealism of joining Stasi begins to fade.

During a surveillance shift when no one was home, Wiesler borrows a prized book of poetry,
written by Bertolt Brecht, from Dreymans apartment and begins to read it. Brecht was a
German poet, playwright, and theatrical reformer whose epic theatre departed from the
conventions of theatrical illusion and developed the drama as a social and ideological forum for
leftist causes. (Britannica) Wiesler also overhears a conversation between Dreyman and Christa
while hes playing the music to Sonata of a Good Man on the piano. Dreymans comment is,
Can anyone who has heard this music, I mean really truly heard it, really be a bad person? All
this gives Wiesler a reason to stop and think, and the more time spent listening in on Dreyman
and Christa, the more Wiesler sees them as individuals and soon he begins to alter the way he

reports their activities to headquarters.

Without realizing he is under surveillance, Dreyman begins writing an article about the vast
number of suicides among East Germans. A subject that was considered subversive, and
definitely had the potential to place Dreyman and associates in jeopardy. Due to Wieslers
changing attitude, Dreyman is able to get his message published in the West. This bold act
angers East German officials and the hunt is on to find out who was capable of pulling off such a

Finally, we see the full change as Wiesler, the once rigid Stasi officer puts his own future in
jeopardy, and goes so far as to intervene to protect Dreyman and Christa. Unfortunately, events
take a tragic turn. Years later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Hempf reveals to Dreyman that he
had been under full surveillance. The two of them had a conversation while attending a
production of the play originally seen at the beginning of the film. As Dreyman pursues answers,
he learns the truth about the identity of Wiesler, and realizes the role he played in the surveillance
and subsequent events on the tragic day so many years ago. In the last scenes, we see Wiesler
reading the dedication in Dreymans book, A Sonata to a Good Man, and a sense of satisfaction
seems to radiate from within as he buys a copy of the book for himself. Its made evident at the
end of the film that Wiesler has indeed changed. Once again we hear the musical love motif and
see a change in the set lighting to highlight the radiant look on his face.

Works Cited
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopdia. "Bertolt Brecht - German Dramatist." 8 Feb
2016. Encyclopedia Britanica. http://www.britannica.com/biography/BertoltBrecht. 6 May 2016.
Lives of Others. Dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Perf. Martina Gedeck,
Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Mhe. 2006. DVD.
Wensierski, Peter. "Web of Surveillance: East German Snitching Went Far Beyond the
Stasi." 10 July 2015. Spiegel Online International.
http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/east-german-domesticsurveillance-went-far-beyond-the-stasi-a-1042883.html. 6 May 2016.