movie


This is a German made Academy Award Winning film from 2007.  I had been meaning to see this for awhile and I am glad I got around to it.  This was a very good film centered around a Stasi captain, Gerd Weisler, a true-believer in socialism.  In the opening scenes he demonstrates a complete incomprehension of the toll he takes on suspects with his interrogation techniques.  It just doesn’t cross his mind as something to be concerned about.

His superior officer is asked by a high ranking official to provide 24hr surveillance of a playwright, Dreyman.  We later learn it’s because said high ranking official is seeking to blackmail the Dreyman’s girlfriend into an affair.  When Gerd discovers this his socialistic ideals take a hit and he creates a situation where Dreyman will find out about the affair.  I think he believes they’ll fight and breakup and the official will get his woman and Gerd could leave this morally suspect assignment.  But that’s not what happens.  Instead Dreyman comforts his lover and in the process Gerd begins to identify with their love.

I could give you a plot summary but that would ruin a good movie.  Needless to say Gerd is transformed by witnessing unconditional love.  The situations get more and more complicated by outside forces until a tragic end.  This is a story of the transforming power of love, love that never met it’s other.  It’s also the story of doing good with no expectation of anyone knowing.  Gerd at the beginning of the film is one of the most despicable people ever put on the screen but by the end you cheer for him.  What an amazing film.

When people reminisce about love. They think of the exciting start to a new relationship, to the surge of feeling walking down the aisle at your wedding, they may even think of the comfortableness of knowing your spouse stills love you twenty years into a marriage, but I doubt many would think of the unconditional love of a husband watching his wife in love with another man. But that is exactly what this movie shows.

In the movie, a husband watches as his wife slowly loses her mind to Alzheimers. Forgetting that she is married to him she falls in love with another man. At first the man is jealous but at a certain point he accepts what life has dealt him. There is a touching scene in which a teenage girl mistakes him for a patient. Once she realizes her error, she asks why he isn’t with the person he is visiting. He says that she’s enjoying herself too much for him to interfere (with the other man). The girl assumes that the man the and woman at the distant table are husband and wife. The husband corrects her and tells her he is married to the woman. When she realizes the situation at first she shocked and then she is touched. That in a nut shell was my reaction to this movie. It is a bit shocking but in the end it is a movingly loving tale telling a very unique story.

It’s been a few years since I was so viscerally affected by a movie. Chigure, the antagonist, is a figure straight out of Beelzebub’s dreams. In fact he is Death personified. He is introduced to us on a pale horse (well a Cadillac, but same difference). Anyone who sees him dies. One of his victims asks if he is going to kill him and Chigure’s response is, “Did you see me.” His wickedness is amplified by the bizarre weapon he uses; a pressurized air gun that is normally used to kill cattle. And that is all this is to Chigure. This rampage of death and destruction is merely his job. And the killing of people is of no more consequence to him than the death of a cow is to a meat processor.

This movie is a reflection on death. I can’t say exactly what the movie’s point of view on death is because of a jerk moviegoer who has talking and walking around during the most important dialogue. But it’s not often that a movie affects my mood for hours on end after the film has ended. I could not fall asleep last night, not out of a sense of fear like from a good horror flick, but a sense of unease awakened by the movie. An unease that I am not prepared for death. In that sense this is actually a very good movie for the Lenten season as the Lenten season calls us evaluate our lives and make ready for the resurrection.

This movie also shares a common theme with another of the Coen Brother’s best films. As in Fargo it is one simple step into the criminal world that wreaks havoc in the main character’s life. What the character’s assume is a contained criminal act opens their lives to murder and mayhem running amok.

Life lesson from the movie: Just remember when you come across a couple million dollars from a drug deal gone bad call the cops and leave the money.

I saw a great film yesterday titled “There Will Be Blood.” Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day Lewis. Paul Thomas Anderson also directed “Magnolia.” The reason I bring this up is that Magnolia especially toward the end made some explicit biblical references (the frog rain). And this film I think can best be understood by realizing that it is morality play about envy.

In a conversation with his brother the main character (Daniel Plainview) says “I have a competition in me. I want no one else to succeed.” Now don’t get me wrong Daniel embodies other deadly sins but it is envy that drives him. And it is ultimately the only emotion that fills his destructive and empty life. I think the movie has been misunderstood as an attack on greed and televangelists. But these are mere foils for the acting out of Daniel’s envy. Daniel is greedy because success is defined by wealth, you can not take what others have without attaining wealth. And Eli Sunday, Daniel’s nemesis in the movie, is merely the vehicle for Daniel’s humiliation and ultimate destruction.

What this movie implies is that capitalism is tainted by envy. Isn’t competition good for the economy. Keep up with the Jones’s, isn’t that another way of saying being envious. The want for what others have drives Americans to spend beyond their means and drives the growth of our economy. And let us remember the warning of Adam Smith, the father of economics, “An investment is by all right-minded people to be commended, because it brings comforts and necessities to the citizenry. But, if continued indefinitely, it will lead to the endless pursuit of unnecessary things.

This is not to say that capitalism is wrong and socialism is right. It’s to say that there is a flaw in capitalism that needs to be watched and controlled, if possible.