Friday, March 30, 2007

The Lives of Others

The problem with art and politics is that too often the political message becomes a hammer to be used on the head. This not only dates a lot of political art, but dehumanizes the characters who carry the story and thus the message.

That's why, for me, art is better when it's deeply personal and spreads out from there.

Politics can provide the circumstances, but as the world shows, everything changes.

And as a lot of political art shows, start with an agenda and you bore from moment one.

(Edward Bond's work is a good example of the personal story being more potent than the directly political - SAVED is terrific, feels personal, clearly written from sharp observation; his later work about people pulling together to weather river floods and crony-ism bore me as the characters are flavorless shills for ideas. Only broad satire - a la SF MIME TROUPE and SNL sketch work - really escapes this for me.)

BUT... Here's a movie where the humanity of the story transcends the political issues - and yet couldn't exist without the politics.

Beautiful. Terrifyingly human. Can't stop watching it in my head.

Go see it.

THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

It'll make you remember what art is for.

Thanks, Eric.

7 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm sure I'm far from the only person who was just shocked when this beat out Pan's Labyrinth for the Foreign Language Oscar, but it definitely sounds like a worthy winner .. They don't show movies this good in my little corner of the world in first-run, so I'll have to wait for DVD

Malachy Walsh said...

I didn't see PL, but think you'll be happy with this one.

Dave Tutin said...

Your observation on political art is spot on. It's why I've always longed for a good film version of Orwell's 1984. The book can be read as a science fiction love story but clearly was making enormous politcal comment on the world of 1948 (the year it was written). Both film versions with which I'm familiar dial up the political message to the detriment of the original work of art. Orwell started with a great story and let his readers read into what they might. Start from the point of the 'message' and there's nowhere left to go. I think it's why Dylan denies ever having written 'message' songs - even if he did!

Oh one other thing. You probably saw this on my blog but Fandy and I went to see A Moon For The Misbegotten with Kevin Spacey on thursday. It was some of the best theater I've seen in a long time. And I honestly didn't expect to like it.

Adam said...

Saw this one last night, and it single-handedly redeemed a bleak movie-season. A beautiful movie. Made me think how fertile the ground can be for powerful stories when the backdrop is naked political repression (be it communism, aparthied, facism, whatever).

As we move from black and white bad guys (think nazis) to shades of grey, it must get more difficult to tap such emotional reserves. Not impossible, just difficult, and requiring a skill that most american film-makers (and playwrights?) are not interested in developing. Maybe the audience is not there, either, but I choose to believe otherwise on that score.

Nice shout-out for a great flick.

Jeff Shattuck said...

I've hear great things about this movie and now with your recco I'm going to finally go see the thing.

Eric said...

Interesting side note about the film, the actor who plays the Stasi agent HGW (pictured), was actually spied on by his wife for the Stasi. He refused to comment further on it.

Malachy Walsh said...

A-mazing. Art, life. Sheesh.