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Real to ReelA New Approach to Understanding Realism in Film and TV Fiction$
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Martin Sohn-Rethel

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780993071768

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9780993071768.001.0001

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Social Realism Continued: the special case of The Lives of Others1

Social Realism Continued: the special case of The Lives of Others1

Chapter:
(p.63) 3: Social Realism Continued: the special case of The Lives of Others1
Source:
Real to Reel
Author(s):

Martin Sohn-Rethel

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9780993071768.003.0004

This chapter evaluates social realism in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives Of Others, 2006). It is a near-universally praised film which claims to expose the murky dealings of the East German (GDR) secret police and its thick blanket of informers before the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and of the Iron Curtain itself. In doing so, it tells the redemptive tale of a Stasi agent, Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), who 'turns', finds a redemptive truth, and works against the corrupt ideology that employs him in order to save East German playwright Georg Dreymann (Sebastian Koch) from Stasi persecution. How realistic is the film to the social-political background it claims to depict? And if it departs from that background, what difference does it make? A film successfully engaging the code of social realism needs to build a very convincing picture of its chosen historical environment. The Lives of Others does this to the satisfaction of an overwhelming majority of its audience.

Keywords:   social realism, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Lives Of Others, East German secret police, social-political background, historical film

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