Friday, August 31, 2007

The Lives Of Others

I behind the curve on this one, but I just watched the Lives Of Others last night. (ah, Netflix).

Don't read this post if you plan on watching the film but haven't yet.

Thought I'd use the Read More... feature to prevent accidental spoilage. Nice, eh?

The Lives of Others is set in the GDR. A Stasi agent, Wiesler, has bugged the apartment of a playwright and his actress girlfriend, investigating possible subversive activities. At one point in the film, Wiesler enters the apartment while the couple is out. It is a brief moment, he simply walks through the apartment, gazing at the various artifacts of the couple's life. I noticed the scene, thinking it somewhat odd. But I accepted it as evidence that Wiesler was becoming involved in the lives of his subjects.

Near the end of the film, when Wiesler rushes to the apartment after the girlfriends confession and removes key evidence, I suddenly realized the true purpose of the scene. That scene offered evidence that Wiesler could enter and leave the apartment at will, undetected.

Among many other structural gems in the play, I was reminded of a basic principle. Every moment or action that is used as evidence for a future action should have two reasons for existence. The first reason should be answered in the now of the story: "Oh, he's doing that because..." As a result, the second reason (the true purpose) will be more powerful and effective. Giving the audience a chance to come up with a reasonable rational for an action in the moment allows a much stronger turn later on.

In other words, causing an audience to ask "what the hell is going on" and answering it later is less powerful that having the audience believe they know what is going on and then changing their minds --or taking their understanding deeper.

1 comment:

ian mairs said...

I saw this film and must admit I thought it was a whole lot of buzz over nothin'.

It seemed to spring forth from the Theater of Guilt wherein the viewer is allowed to identify with
the plight of the film's heroes and saints.

And as for all the set up - it felt like it was merely that- set up. I kept waiting for one of the characters to suprise me in some way. But the good guys just kept on with all that nail biting and brow furrowing. Eeeeek!

A much more satisfying and complex venture for me was Pan's Labyrinth.
It's a dark, feverish nightmare. Full of suprises and haunting images. And the little girl who plays the lead could give those
dreary Germans a run for their money any day of the week.