Music can change people sometimes. There is even a phrase that goes, “All forms of art desire the status of music,” which demonstrates the power of music. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s film “The Lives of Others” depicts how music can change a person.
The film is set in East Germany before unification. Gerd Weisler is an interrogation and eavesdropping specialist with the Stasi, the East German Secret Police. He is a coldblooded “human machine” who taps and interrogates people on the black list and does not hesitate to torture them if necessary.
He keeps a close eye on renowned play writer Georg Dreyman. He sets up tapping devices in every corner of Dreyman’s house so perfectly that he can even hear the breath. One day, Dreyman gets a phone call on which he learns that a well-known director who lost favor of the government and was banned from directing committed a suicide. In bitter grief, he starts playing a sonata score, which was a gift from the director. Imaginary music plays in the film. An expression that was never seen on Weisler’s face appears as he listens to music through the tapping device. It is the moment where he turns into a human from a heartless machine.
Dreyman is safe because of this even after he publishes an article about oppressive reality of East Germany on a West German newspaper. To protect him, Weisler writes a false report and removes Dreyman’s typewriter, which is critical evidence of crime. This is the power of music that puts humans over ideologies, emotions over principles and love over disciplines.
Here is a question — Would Lenin have changed like Weisler if he had listened to his favorite Beethoven’s Appassionata more often? Would history have been the same if Lenin had believed that he had to listen to music to achieve revolution? This is an innocent and classical question that the film asks.