It took three tries to get past the first fifteen minutes of the German film, The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen). I'd fall asleep, decide to go check my email, or start daydreaming and forget to read the subtitles and find myself hopelessly lost.
On the third try, I trudged through and within the next ten minutes I was barely able to peel my eyes away from the screen. I went to sleep last night knowing I'd seen the best movie I've seen this year.
I had to do a bit of retrospective research on East Berlin and the Berlin Wall in order to fully grasp the historical setting of the film. Yet, I lost nothing in my viewing for being moderately ignorant of 1980s German history.
The trailer makes it seems like the film is highly sexual, highly thrilling, highly charged. And while elements of these exist in the film, it is much to subtle to be highly anything. The Lives of Others is a film of compassion and relationships.
This film shook me because nothing is as it seems. The theme of fidelity and its intricacies and complications is woven through each character's development. I don't want to detail the plot because I feel so strongly that you should see the film. It has changed the way I think of fidelity this morning and though fictional, has given me a greater faith in human compassion.