In East Berlin in 1984, the secret police, known as the Stasi, are gaining more and more control, spying on German citizens, and recruiting thousands of them to spy on each other. Captain Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) has been ordered to find something on playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), so he sets up a surveillance room and listens closely as Dreyman, his actress girlfriend, Christa-Marie Sieland (Martina Gedeck), and various suspected radical friends gather in their apartment. But when Wiesler discovers that culture minister Bruno Hempf (Thomas Thieme) cast suspicion on Dreyman only so he can have his way with Sieland, the master interrogator and torture teacher starts taking a long look at just what it all is about.
THE LIVES OF OTHERS, cowritten and directed by first-timer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, is a tense, compelling thriller about a critical time in German history. Mühe is mesmerizing as the complicated Wiesler, a loyal soldier until he learns too much. The wildly talented Koch is outstanding as Dreyman, a man with a lot to say but desperate to avoid the same fate as his mentor, theater director Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert). Inspired by actual events and real characters, THE LIVES OF OTHERS was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. Interestingly, during and after the filming of the movie, several of the actors (including Mühe) found out that they or their families had been victims of the Stasi--and in one case, the father of an actor (Charly Hubner) was revealed to have been a member of the Stasi himself.