Sometimes when you hear a movie is good it changes the experience you have when you watch it. No matter what you’re told about the movie, good or bad, your perspective shifts — now you have expectations.
I spent a lot of time when I first watched it wondering what other people thought was good about it, why a small foreign film had garnered such good buzz. Looking back, I think people who weren’t regulars in the foreign film genre enjoyed The Lives of Others precisely because it isn’t like some other foreign films — the story is presented crisply, without cultural barriers. These are the facts, this is the story. All you have to do is watch.
The plot revolves around a Stasi agent who is tasked with monitoring a playwright. After the events in the news this year, this type of personal invasion doesn’t seem so locked in history.
The acting by Ulrich Mühe is unbelievable. If you want to know what makes foreign film so important, watch his performance. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who is also the writer, does a fantastic job of letting his actors communicate through subtle movements that are not lost in the lens. Anything more would have felt wrong.
It’s completely grounded. So unlike his hand in The Tourist. But there is so much work in The Lives of Others to have been a fluke. It’s clear Florian is intimate with the subject matter as it’s directed with an emotional precision. The colors, locations, sounds, the faces are a strict replication of an era.
The Lives of Others serves as a reminder of where we’ve been and where we may go again if we don’t take the arc of this story to heart. It’s about art, creation, and humanity. It’s good.
(Be sure to check out the excellent director’s commentary for more insights into the film. I also suggest pairing it with The Conversation.)
The Food: Beer Caramel Popcorn
I tried a recipe I found online which resulted in something less than edible but fueled my craving for a hopsy popcorn. What’s great about this recipe is how the beer flavor really does come through. It would be great mixed with pretzels, peanuts, or candy.
For every 2 cups of popped popcorn:
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon beer
- 1 teaspoon honey or brown rice syrup or corn syrup
Set the oven to 300°.
Place the popped popcorn in a bowl and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add all the coating ingredients to a pot on medium heat. The sugars will melt and the beer will froth. Continue cooking as the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. It should look syrupy, but not like a caramel.
Pour over popcorn and toss until evenly coated. Spread popcorn on a the parchment.
Bake time varies from 10-20 minutes depending on the size of your batch. Stir it every 5 minutes, to caramelize mixture. Cool the popcorn completely for that hopsy caramel crunch.