In his feature debut, Henckel von Donnersmarck tackles a theme that was so far primarily the field of literature. Several comedies about the former DDR have appeared, but the black past of the East German intelligence service, the Stasi, was never filmed so seriously before.
The Stasi had a staff of no less than 90,000 and about 200,000 informers. Ulrich Mühe very convincingly plays the Stasi officer, Gerd Wiesler, who eavesdrops on the famous playwright Georg Dreyman day and night. The wife of the playwright, a famous actress, can count on the personal attention of the Minister of Culture, who keeps an eye on her career in exchange for her favours. The wife is under increasing pressure when her husband is suspected of passing on sensitive information to the West German magazine Der Spiegel. Wiesler’s firm faith in his party slowly starts to show some cracks when he wants to protect the actress he so admires. In the end his helpfulness leads to a tragic end for the actress and himself.
After the fall of the Wall, Dreyman gains access to his Stasi files. When he finds out who actually saved him, he makes a gesture of recognition while writing his latest novel. The film has sparked off a debate in Germany about how much former Stasi operatives have a right to rehabilitation. (PvH)