'The Lives of Others' wins best foreign film Oscar

Monday, 26 February 2007 - 9:11am IST | Agency: Agencies

The Lives Of Others (Germany) has won the Oscar for The Best Foreign Language film.

HOLLYWOOD: Germany's The Lives of Others, a searing look at life behind the Berlin Wall in 1984, under the constant gaze of the Ministry of State Security (Stasi), won the best foreign-language film Oscar on Sunday.          

The film bested After the Wedding, from Denmark; Days of Glory (Indigenes), from Algeria; Pan's Labyrinth, from Mexico; and Water, from Canada, to win the foreign-language Oscar on Sunday.            


Deepa Mehta's Water had emerged as a strong favourite in the Best Foreign Language Film category, raising hopes of finally breaking the 'Oscars jinx' for Indian filmmakers.


The Lives of Others follows a top Stasi agent, played by Ulrich Muehe, who is assigned to keep tabs on a successful playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his live-in lover, a beautiful actress played by rising German star Martina Gedeck.              


In his first full-length feature, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck took his inspiration from a quote by Vladimir Lenin that he could not afford to listen to Beethoven because beautiful music might weaken his resolve to destroy any resistance to the Bolshevik revolution.             


He said in interviews that this left him with the recurring image of a man who is listening to something but does not hear what he expects and comes away altered by the experience.    


And so the spy sits alone, passively but jealously listening in on every intimate detail of the artist couple's relationship.        


He starts pulling strings from the shadows, changing the course of their lives but also his own perspective as he starts to realise and doubt what he is doing.          


The film, which picked up the European Film Award for best picture, was a box office success in Germany, where almost 18 years after its collapse the Communist era inspires a mixture of fascination, resentment and nostalgia.        


The impact the Stasi had on people's lives is still a raw wound, and the release of certain files remains the subject of a protracted political debate.          


The dreaded secret service had more agents per capita than any other outfit of its kind in the world.         


Von Donnersmarck, who was born in Cologne, West Germany, and raised around the globe, was lauded for recreating the drab, chilly atmosphere of Communist East Berlin, though some critics pointed to a number of irritating anachronisms.       


Lead actor Muehe grew up and worked in East Germany. Not only did the Stasi keep a file on him but he was able to bring valuable knowledge about the drama community behind the Iron Curtain to the project.    


And in a case of art and life intersecting, Muehe has repeatedly accused his former wife, Jenny Groellmann, of spying for the Stasi.      


Groellmann was one of the most successful actresses in East Germany, and she bitterly contested her ex-husband's claims right up to her death last year from cancer.          


Their battle received widespread media attention while the film was showing in theaters. Groellmann eventually won a court order forbidding Muehe from calling her a spy.    


Meanwhile, the apartment where The Lives of Others was shot has become part of the itinerary of a guided tour of famous film locations in Berlin.    


Germany has made a strong showing in Oscar nominations in recent years, with the Nazi-era dramas Downfall and Sophie Scholl -- The Final Days in the running for the best foreign-language film in 2005 and 2006.        


The country's last win in the category was in 2003, with Nowhere In Africa.       

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