Non Resident Alien

This is a chronicle of my tragi-comic life as a foreigner in the United States. My official status when I started school in 2004, was that of a Non-Resident-Alien and that's where the title of the blog is from. My status has changed to Resident Alien since then. My personal experiences are a unique roller coaster mundane everyday experiences for locals, but unique from the eyes of a foreigner. I started this blog to share some of my experiences beginning my third year living in this country.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Two Movies:The Lives of Others; Pan's Labyrinth (Spoiler Alert)

I have always loved European movies. They are significantly different from Hollywood. My bias could also be availability bias since I am usually exposed only to the award winning European movies and not the run-of-mill ones like I am with Hollywood. However, that being said, even the award winning Hollywood features do not capture depths of emotions the way European features do.
Das leben der Anderen (The lives of Others) is a beautiful story that shows the extremes of Socialism in East Germany. It is also the tragic story of a bureaucrat who has to spy into the life of a writer and ends up protecting him. To me the most powerful parts of the movie were the descriptions of scholastic conditions under Socialism. Artists did not have the freedom to choose to do what they wanted to do, instead they had to work on ideas and topics the administration liked, and heaven forbid anyone who chooses to assert their independence. The administration breaks their career and drives them even to suicide. This movie is also a curious case of movies mimicking reality. The life of Ulrich Muhe the Stasi officer in the movie was spent in East Germany and he died in 2007. What I loved about the movie was the characterization of great emotions without much fanfare and drama. The most powerful part of the movie for me was the last scene where Muhe buys the book about him and tells the cashier "No! It is for me". That scene brought tears to my eyes. It was such a loaded sentence, filled with dramatic irony. What a beautiful movie. Gave me new perspectives on life under socialism, and the depths of human emotion and character. The casting was superb and it deserved the Oscar win. The Lives of Others: Quiet, deep and emotional.
The other foreign movie nominated in the same year and same category is El Laberinto del Fauno or Pan's Labyrinth in English.  A completely different storyline. This is a wonderful fantastical tale of the war from the eyes of a child. The movie opens with a gruesome scene where you see a mortally wounded girl rasping for breath. The rest of the story moves back in time and is woven as fantasy interspersed with reality. Is the fantasy Ofelia's escape from the reality of her stepfather and the horrors of war? That just seems too obvious. There is a deeper meaning I want to read here, but as a simple fantastical tale it is very poignant. The fairy is not the usual disney fairy, but something that looks like a grasshopper and a scary creature. The same is true of the faun, not the friendly Mr.Tumnus of Narnia, but someone who seems much more scheming and scary looking. You keep wanting to warn Ofelia not to trust him, while at the same time questioning your own judgement. What a fantastic story of bravery and innocence!! I loved this fantasy tale and it gave a new meaning to fantasy outside of the Disney culture. Its not all nice and hunky-dory. Fantasy can be as gory as reality, and that is the lesson I learned from this movie. Wonderful movie!! I will see it again. 



  • At 12:40 PM, Blogger morpheus said…

    Its truly good movies, I know not all people could enjoy watch The Lives of Others, What is truly amazing is that this is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's directorial debut, and he maintains a masterful hand throughout and keeps the story and the tension rolling from the first scene of interrogation which is filmed back and forth between a tape educating new Stasi as to interview techniques and to the actual cell itself where it was recorded.


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