The Lives of Others (film, cert 15)
by Florian Henckel von Dommersmarck (written and directed by), published by Buena Vista International, (2006)
This film won many awards, including an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It is a powerful, tragic tale of deception and espionage. Using fiction to learn about a historical era can be risky, but this film serves a purpose beyond its narrative. The film’s realism gives a genuine insight into the workings of the Stasi, offering real educational value. The first scene could be played in class as an introduction to the Stasi’s interrogation methods (no physical torture is shown). As the scene is set in a training school for agents, we see not only the way the Stasi operated, but also how and why their methods were so effective. The film also depicts, with meticulous accuracy, the layout and décor of parts of the Stasi headquarters and prison (the Hohenschönhausen) in East Berlin, the prisoner transport vehicles and the surveillance technology the Stasi used. There is also scope for using the representation in the film to fuel discussion, to reflect on as an exercise in demonstrating understanding or to assess historical accuracy.