The Lives Of Others

The best movies tell stories of transformation. Years ago I was captivated by The Last Emperor. The inner journey of a man who had been born into one reality, that of being brought up in the Forbidden City to be the next Emperor, and his gradual transformation as reality changes and he becomes a prisoner. We see him at the end of the movie as a peaceful gardener. The outer changes act as a reflection of the inner transformation. You are left wondering about the capability of the human psyche to undergo such a dramatic change and our ability to accept new paradigms.
The Grand Canyon is another movie that tells a transformational story. In the Grand Canyon it’s the special moments of extraordinary meetings of the characters between seemingly random events that are the catalysts of transformation. The movie brings to the foreground the mystery of destiny determined in a moment. One moment, one connection, one sound can change the million moments that follow it depending upon our response. You are left with a clear sense that every fork in the road, however transitory, led you in actuality to arrive at this point in time.

Last night we watched The Lives Of Others. It tells the story of the GDR (The German Democratic Republic of East Germany) before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The main character is a strict Stasi (State Security) Captain who follows the Socialist line with unwavering commitment until one day he begins to crack. The metaphoric moment in the movie when one “beam of light” enters his closed mind is symbolized in a short exchange with an innocent child. What comes through the cracks are human feelings and later, art, beauty, love and the courage to protect these things from the oppressive party. The transformation is from the forced and inhumane conscience of the party to his own true human conscience.

People are products of the systems they operate in, and yet the eternal heroic human story is the one where courage triumphs over the institution. Part of the delight of remembering movies is the feelings that run through us when we remember a particularly touching moment on the screen. In The Last Emperor, the contrast between the incredible beauty of the surroundings and the turmoil of the young man as he discovers life outside the walls of the Forbidden City puts us in his place. In The Grand Canyon, total strangers are bound by a passion for meaning to escape the alienation of life without purpose in a large and impersonal modern day city, we long with them to find something better. The Lives of Others shows one man’s triumph over an oppressive faceless system to light a fire of hope within us and we leave the theater with the knowing that transformation is not only possible it is essential.

© Aviv Shahar

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