Socialist Worker

Before, during and after - three DVDs about eastern Europe in 1989

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2176

The Lives of Others is a gripping thriller focusing on the role of the East German secret police – the notorious Stasi – in mid-1980s Berlin.

A dedicated Stasi agent is assigned to monitor a playwright who is accused of dissident sympathies. It becomes clear that the playwright is really being targeted because a government minister has designs on his partner.

The film is an engrossing human drama with superb performances.

It also shows the claustrophobia and brutality of the apparatus propping up the East German state.

Good Bye Lenin! is an extremely funny satire about the events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Christiane, a woman committed to the Stalinist ideology of the East German state, has a heart attack while watching a demonstration.

She falls into a coma and wakes up eight months later.

The Wall has come down and the symbols of West German commercial culture are encroaching into the East.

Her son fears that the shock of the new political situation might finish her off, so tries to maintain the pretence that nothing has changed. He is driven to extreme lengths to disguise the truth – with hilarious consequences.

12:08 East of Bucharest is set during the 16th anniversary of the 1989 Romanian Revolution.

The title derives from the time, 12.08 on 22 December, when the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu fled the capital, Bucharest, after a popular uprising toppled him.

This is a somewhat sad, dryly amusing film in which an overblown businessman in a provincial Romanian town is hosting a shambolic TV talkshow.

The topic for debate is, “Was there a genuine, revolutionary demonstration in the town square on that day?”

The argument centres on whether local residents rose up before or after Ceausescu fell – were they brave pioneers of the revolution or cowards who merely trailed wider events?

The talkshow “guests” are an alcoholic history teacher who claims he led a rebellion in the town before the crucial moment of 12.08 and an engaging 75-year old who doesn’t really think it matters.

A series of animated callers add to the general confusion.

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Tue 3 Nov 2009, 18:39 GMT
Issue No. 2176
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