The Lives of Others shows how East Germany’s paranoid secret police service, the Stasi, invaded the lives of so many of its own citizens, destroying many along the way. It is a very precise analysis of a police state but on another level, it asks if it’s possible to maintain one’s humanity in a totalitarian system.
Wiesler begins the film as a committed Stasi man, even conducting classes for new secret police recruits about interrogation methods but cracks begin to form in his worldview as he immerses himself in the lives of the artists he is spying on. The sterility of his own overly fastidious life is highlighted as he discovers the richness in the world of the urbane playwright and his talented girlfriend.
The turning point for the character occurs while Dreyman plays a sonata on the piano after his friend Jerska whose works have been banned by the regime kills himself and a tear rolls down Wiesler’s face as he begins to realise how cruel and bankrupt the system he is supporting actually is.