The Lives of Others
2006, Germany, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Winner of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign films
Jamyang Kyi on The Lives of Others
Before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, East Germany’s population was closely monitored by the State Secret Police (Stasi). Only a few citizens above suspicion, like famous pro-Socialist playwright Georg Dreyman, were permitted to lead private lives. But when a corrupt government official falls for Georg’s actress-girlfriend, Christa, an ambitious Stasi policeman is ordered to bug the writer’s apartment to gain incriminating evidence against the rival. What the officer discovers dramatically change their lives – as well as his – in this penetrating and gut-wrenching political thriller.
The lives of Tibetans in occupied Tibet are as controlled and monitored by the secret police of the Chinese Communist state, as those of the citizens of former East Germany. The popular Amdowa singer, feminist, writer and TV broadcaster, who saw the movie (probably on DVD) commented, in her essay “They” on the sameness of the inhumanity and suffering under totalitarian rule whether in the PRC or the DDR. I have reproduced an excerpt from her essay which was translated into English and posted on High Peaks Pure Earth. The website also carries her biography and translations of her other writings.
Jamyang Kyi was arrested in the aftermath of protests that swept across the Tibetan plateau in March 2008 and beaten and tortured as so many other brave Tibetans were at the time. She was released on May 20 2008, but is awaiting trial.
From “They” by Jamyang Kyi
They constantly tried to use various methods to make me betray others. During that time, one scene from “The Lives of Others” occurred to me from time to time. The woman in the film, after endlessly suffering unimaginable degrees of intimidation and atrocity, loses herself and turns her back on her beloved man. When the man stares at her with a sense of disbelief, unable to bear her feelings, she runs onto the road in front of an oncoming vehicle. There, she ends her beauty and precious life. Though it has been over two years since I saw the film, I cannot forget the depth of frustration in the man’s stare and the aggrieved look on the woman’s face. Today, these images from the film appear even more real in my mind.
Each interrogation session aroused a different kind of fear in me. One day in the middle of an interrogation, I thought instead of enduring this, it would be better to be killed by a single bullet. My family and relatives would grieve but as for me, I would have to suffer the pain only once. One day when I was in the washroom, out of nowhere, I found myself thinking about the means or methods of taking my own life. Those days I remembered the small knife that was confiscated at Zhihu Hotel…. Were I to get hold of the knife then, I would surely have cut the veins of my wrist…
For more details, see tt0405094 on The Internet Movie Database.