In a review, American journalist John Podoretz called The Lives of Others “one of the greatest movies ever made, and certainly the best film of this decade.” Much of the praise for the film comes from Ulrich Mühe’s astoundingly still and haunting central performance as the East German intelligence agent who undergoes a crisis of conscience. I have added comments about Mühe’s performance below.
“One of the marvels of Ulrich Mühe’s performance—in its seething stillness, its quality not just of self-denial but of self-haunting—is that he never distills Wiesler into a creature purely of his times. You can imagine him, with his close-cropped hair, as a young Lutheran in the wildfire of the early Reformation, or as a lost soul finding a new cause in the Berlin of 1933. See him crouched in a loft above Dreyman’s home with a typewriter, a tape deck, and headphones clamped to his skull. Watch the nothingness on his face as he taps out his report on the couple’s actions: “Presumably have intercourse.” How long can you listen to love being made? Especially when your only love comes from a hooker who marches in, performs, then leaves before you have even refastened your pants? Slowly, the tables turn. Wiesler steals Dreyman’s copy of Brecht and takes it home to read; he starts to omit details in his official account; and, for some fathomless reason—guilt, curiosity, longing—he lets the lives of others run their course.”
From Anthony Lane at The New Yorker
“Muhe is brilliantly restrained: His portrayal is a study in nuance and subtlety.”
From Claudia Puig at USA Today
“Introduced first is Stasi Capt. Gerd Wiesler, someone we recognize, or think we do, as one of the worst of the worst, a soulless servant of the state shown both interrogating an overmatched prisoner and passing on his manipulative techniques to the next generation of secret police.Immaculately played by Ulriche Muhe (winner of the best actor Lola), Wiesler is a humorless automaton, a Jesuitical ascetic with cold eyes and an unswerving true believer’s faith in the system he has sworn to defend against “enemies of socialism” no matter where he finds them.”
From Kenneth Turan at The Los Angeles Times.