21 January 2013

El Cine Según a Kimmie: Das Leben der Anderen [The Lives of Others], 2006

Ciao, bellas! 

If you saw the title of this post, you might be wondering what on earth I'm talking about. Well, I've decided to start a new, occasional segment for "La Vida," appropriately titled "El Cine Según a Kimmie." ("The Cinema According to Kimmie")  I love writing reviews, whether they be for homeschool curriculum, hair products, music books, food, or movies. Now, I'm not a movie junkie, but I do enjoy the occasional film every now and then. I do tend to be slightly nit picky about what I watch, but I will note those movies which have left an impression on me. This first installment is a foreign film, originally released in Germany as Das Leben der Anderen, and shown in 2007 in the United States as The Lives of Others. Enjoy! (Side note: There is one spoiler in this review/final thoughts type thing, but only because it was needed to illustrate a point :-D)

Rating: R

Genre: Thriller, Drama

Cast: Martina Gedeck as Christa-Maria SielandUlrich Mühe as Hauptmann Gerd WieslerSebastian Koch as Georg DreymanUlrich Tukur as Oberstleutnant Anton GrubitzThomas Thieme as Minister Bruno HempfHans-Uwe Bauer as Paul HauserVolkmar Kleinert as Albert JerskaMatthias Brenner as Karl WallnerHerbert Knaup as Gregor Hessenstein

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Writer: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Distributor: Sony Pictures

Release Date: 23 March 2006 (Germany); 9 February 2007 (United States)

(All of the aforementioned information was taken from IMDb.com.)

Plot Summary: East Berlin. 1984. The Stasi ("state security"/secret police) are keeping what appears to be perfect order in the state. Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) has an illustrious career in the government as one of the top interrogators. Because of his sharp instincts and attention to detail, he's selected to begin surveillance on one of the G.D.R.'s (German Democratic Republic's) beloved writers - Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), and his drama-loving girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), a prominent actress. But it is far from a routine wire tapping. Spying on Dreyman proves to be a life changing event for everybody involved - and most especially for the Watcher himself.

My Thoughts: I was introduced to this film indirectly by my Core professors. It was on a list of suggested films to watch over the break. At first I was reluctant to view it; it seemed dull, and I was even more put off by the fact that it was in German (just a personal quibble; I don't particularly like the way German lands on my ears).

I couldn't have been more wrong. This is definitely one of the best movies I've ever seen. It grappled with some heavy ideas - the question of whether people are inherently good or bad, for instance. At the start of the movie, Wiesler is the perfect East German - he holds a position in the government, meticulously notes and reports any and all  suspicious activities and speech, lectures at the university, and regularly rubs elbows with top officials. A good man, by government standards. But he soon realizes that there is more to life. He starts to come to this turning point when he happens to hear Georg play a piece on the piano entitled "Sonata for a Good Man" ("Sonate vom Guten Menschen"), a birthday gift to him from his dear friend Albert Jerska. After playing, Georg turned to Christa and uttered somberly:

"Lenin said that if he continued to listen to Beethoven's 'Apassionata,' he would not be able to finish the revolution. Can any man who has heard this [sonata] - I mean truly heard it - really be a bad person?" Wiesler seems to take this to heart. Little by little, he morphs from a heartless mechanical interrogator into a real man. The transformation was incredible to witness (I won't spoil any more of the movie by giving any examples, though :-D)

[Image Copyright 2006 Sony Pictures, Inc.]

Another aspect of this movie that I enjoyed was in how it showed the imperfections of humanity. When the Stasi and government were first introduced in the beginning for instance, they seemed to run perfectly and without flaws, no matter what happened. The further the story went, though, the more flawed and weakened the Stasi appeared, and the more power Wiesler seemed to wield over it. I thought it was intriguing how he - one insignificant man, by G.D.R. standards - could impact the lives of so many others and affect the innermost workings of the government.

Just a note about the nudity in Das Leben; it is sexually graphic, and I was shocked (to put it mildly) to see those scenes the first time I watched it (I skipped over them the second go). But, in some odd way,  the stark bareness of some of the characters is utilised to help the audience grasp the full nature of the message of this movie. That being said, you know yourself best. If you tend to be a bit prudish when it comes to sexual scenes (like I tend to be), just be prepared.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this movie to college-age audiences and older. The discussions and themes that can be drawn from it seem innumerable; it'd be a great film to watch with a group of friends and discuss after the viewing. 

Side note: During my personal viewings of this film, I had a moment of realisation. At the beginning of last semester, my Core professors passed out a pre-course exam, and one of the questions was "What are the humanities?" My answer was the generic answer that dictionary.com might have provided. Watching this movie, however, made me realise that the humanities are the study of the lives of others - those who do and do not share our cultural and racial similarities, religion or life philosophy,  music, poetry, prose, etc. It felt like a light bulb had finally turned on in my brain. At last, I saw how and why my Core professors connected everything the way that they did, why we studied the topics we did, and why they were important. Hopefully, I'll continue to keep this in mind when we start the second semester in 8 days :-D

[Image Copyright 2006 Sony Pictures, Inc.]

What are some thought-provoking movies that you enjoy watching?


  1. I'm an avid movie buff and I watched "Carmen" starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge. This all black cast was ground breaking at the time. With strong vocals and a jaw dropping storyline, I was hooked! I watched it on Netflix. The ending had me connecting to Shakespeare's "Othello". It is definitely a must see!!!

    1. Ooh, thanks for the recommendation, Raven! I'll have to check that out; it sounds like a great movie :-D I need to read Othello, too. Random bit. Lol.

  2. Hey, you mentioned homeschool curriculum...do you homeschool? I ask because I do...

    1. Noo not yet lol. I'm not married :-) But I was homeschooled my entire life! :-D I'm a virtual curriculum junkie; I like to research different curriculum, check for new editions, read reviews, experiment with them, and try them out. Rainbow Resource's annual catalog is my best friend every June :-D And I try to order as many catalogs from as many different curriculum companies as possible around ordering time. If I had experience homeschooling, I'd probably move to the midwest to be a consultant with a homeschool company lol.

      That's so cool! How long have you been homeschooling? What curriculum(s) do you use with your kiddos? :-) You have me all excited lol.

    2. I'm more of an eclectic homeschooler...using bits and pieces from many curriculum ... even the curriculum of life. That is awesome that u were homeschooled your whole life. I don't have any in high school yet but how did u manage getting into college? Did u take tests to enter or did ur college accept the work u did as a homeschooler? If u want u can email me, then we won't take up space on your comments section..lol!!

    3. So is mi madre! She's used everything from Apologia to Shiller Math lol.

      Colleges accepted the work that my transcript said that I did, but that didn't exempt me from taking the ACT or the SAT; even the community college I attend now wanted my standardized exam scores. I'm not sure if it's like that across the board, but in my state (MD), homeschooled high school students have to take those exams just like every other high school student. We're also allowed to rack up extra college credits by taking AP and CLEP exams (I was never able to sit for one, though), also. As long as the credit requirements are met for a particular college (e.g. 4 credits of English, 4 Maths, 3 Science, 3 Social Studies, 4 Foreign Language), your bambinos have done a good amount of volunteering or working, and score relatively well on a college entrance exam, they should be fine :-D

      For me, high school was different than my earlier years, because I actually had to stick to one curriculum, per subject per year. I was used to dabbling into a bit of every type of resource for history; it took me a bit to adjust to reading a textbook every day. Part of what I think helped me make a better adjustment to high school was being part of an umbrella group. The staff there kept our records (transcripts and whatnot), monthly, semester and final grades/progress, and more. It helped both me and my mom to have that structure. We had to fill out credit contracts, submit monthly summaries (showing what I did each month so that I was compliant with the state), and mid year and final grades. We also had reviews twice a year with the high school administrator to discuss my progress. I had issues with time management, though, so my meetings ended up being monthly lol.

      As you know, there are dozens of options. There's curriculums that are solely online or on the computer like Switched on Schoolhouse, distance learning programs like Laurel Springs, packaged box curriculums like Covenant Home Curriculum or Sonlight, traditional curriculum like Bob Jones or A Beka, enrollment services like Hewitt Homeschooling, and tons more. Outside of school, your kids would likely have time to volunteer for a nonprofit of some sort, hold a job, or any other type of experience that'd give them practical know-how. If any of your kids are more sporty or outdoorsy, check the public and private schools in your area to see if homeschoolers are permitted to play on the junior varsity and varsity teams. Some states/counties are different than others. Or there may even be a team started by homeschoolers near you.

      It may seem daunting, but once you cross that bridge, it usually ends up being much easier than it looks. As a now-college student, I truly believe that homeschooling through high school is a land full of opportunities :-D It prepared me well, and though I did have my moments, I loved nearly every minute of it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat :-)

  3. Oh, and I forgot about dual enrollment classes! Apparently this is all the rage now, but I started doing it out of convenience.

    My CC has what it calls an Early Placement program; they allow 11th and 12th grade students to register for up to 2 classes per term (fall, spring, winter, summer I or summer II) and earn credits. I started with one class in the first semester of my junior year because neither my mom nor I could find a good math curriculum that I could do. So I took the math placement test and registered for a math class (that I loved!). The next semester, I took Spanish. All in all, I earned a total of 26 credits that were transferable to practically any 4 year college or university in the country, saving me time and money.

    This is definitely a viable option if you can bite the bullet for tuition. There are online dual enrollment classes with various universities, community colleges, and even some 4 year schools will allow outstanding high school students to be admitted early to take a few classes. It's great to do if you have a child that's very strong in a particular area - take science, for instance. S/he would be able to take a challenging lab science in a classroom setting, experience a bit of the "real" world, and knock a university-level general education requirement out of the way.

    1. I forgot to hit reply and type my response....so see below :-)

  4. Oh, this is all such good info...I never answered u ..I've homeschooled from the beginning. My kids have never gone to any school. I sometimes get concerned b/c we don't follow a heavy 'academic' route. I follow my child's interest and we work on the weak areas in time amounts that my children can handle. I have 3 and they are all so different as to their attention span, character, skill level, etc... I'm trusting God that they will have what they need when they need it. I believe that my children are to be 'educated' according to their individuality and not just what the public school says they should know in whatever grade...so I do not follow any public scope and sequence. I follow what I see/know my children need to work on (as far as what skills/content I feel are important for them to have/know and trust the Lord for the rest. So I feel that may kind of put us a little out of sync with what colleges expect. We'll see...how long have you graduated from homeschool?

    1. That's so great to hear! Btdubs, you don't have to follow an intense Trivium curriculum for your kids. Many other homeschoolers do the same thing :-) If you truly feel that what you're doing now is what God wants for your family, keep doing it, by all means :-) One of my best friends has 4 older sisters, and their parents have homeschooled for more than 30 years. They didn't focus on the super intense academics that many of us can get wrapped up in, and they still don't. They try to keep things balanced; they always have textbooks for math and phonics/English and spelling, but they use a mix of dozens of other resources for other subjects.

      That's one of the beauties of homeschooling that I've loved over the years; the individuality.

      Don't feel that you have to change your way of homeschooling simply for the sake of higher education. Check out "Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook." It's 12 years old, but it's a great resource if you're looking for ways to translate what might be considered "nontraditional" school experiences into academic lingo, and it breaks down prepping for college really well. "Senior High: A Home-Designed Form + U + La," updated edition is another great resource. Both are available from Amazon, Rainbow Resource, and CBD :-)

      I graduated in June of 2012, so I'm technically a college freshman :-)

    2. Oh, and btdubs, my friend's older sisters have been very successful. The oldest double majored in English and music at UMD, and then went on to get her law degree from Howard U. She was an aide to a southern Senator for several years, and now she works for the National Urban League.

      The second oldest got her degree in nursing from Emory U, was a missionary in Haiti for nearly a decade, and recently returned to the States. She now works an HIV/AIDS clinic in GA.

      The third daughter went to UMD, and has lived in NYC for years working in the fashion industry.

      The fourth (and youngest of the older set) went to Nyack and got her certifications as an early elementary teacher. She worked for a few years in a daycare, and then she and her husband had a baby. They moved back to this area recently to be closer to her family.

      The two youngest (one is one of my best friends) are in 11th and 7th grades, and also doing well :-)

      They were one of the first families to let my parents know what homeschooling was all about :-)

  5. I have purchased several year ago and have read several times "Senior High: A Home Designed Formula". I didn't understand it at first but I started reading Marilyn Howshall (and am a member of her Homeschool Association) and the Lord began to open my understanding to this message, now I am understanding FORMULA and seeing little by little how I can use it for our purposes.

    Also, Nyack (College) is like 10 min. from me and I know they readily receive hschoolers. Thanks sooooo for the encouragement. It means a lot from someone who has been there, done that!!

    what does btdubs mean? This conver. was oh so good!! Can u look at God and see His Hand? I know you can b/c I can!!!!

    I will check out Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook...I'm kind of a book junkie. I LOVE to read and learn...that's why I was able to just jump on Tightly Curly. I think it was time for me to do this and the desire and knowledge just came. So I will check out this book. Thanks again for the suggestions/recommendations!!

    1. Wow! That's great! I love taking bits and pieces of things and using them to make a cohesive whole :-)

      Seriously? That's convenient lol. My friend's sister and her husband loved it up there :-)

      No problemo; we are supposed to encourage one another as believers :-) And I've had my share of struggles as a homeschooled student lol.

      Oh sorry - btdubs = btw (by the way). It's just a different way of saying it. I got it from a friend of mine at church and just started using it because I liked the way it sounded *sheepish grin*
      Definitely! He's been revealing Himself over and over again to me, even when I don't want to see it. It's so cool how He led us to "meet," isn't it? :-)

      Definitely; it's a great book. I read it when I was about 13, and it helped me when I started planning my college route and whatnot. Lol, so am I. I have built in shelves on one wall of my room, and nearly all of them are full...and many of the books are mine or were purchased by me o_O Plus I have a full bookcase in my closet and a shelf upstairs lol. I love books and reading and just words and language(s) in general. It's all so amazing and fascinating to me! What's one of your favorite books, btdubs?

      Same here; I was eager for literature about curly/natural hair, so I was ecstatic to finally read Teri's book. The same with Lorraine Massey's book, and Nikki's book coming out soon.

      No problem; I'm glad that I was able to provide some encouragement. I was encouraged by you, too - just in regard to methods and such. I plan to homeschool my bambinos (if I ever get married and have any), and I get dizzy looking at all the possibilities there are for my future babies. You're such a great example of K.I.S.S. Grazie molte! Have a blessed day, chica! :-)