Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

17 September 2007

The Lives of Others & L'Eclisse

I don't really re-watch movies. It's sort of an unwritten rule for me. Every year I watch maybe one or two movies (I re-watched both All About Eve and Network a couple months ago) but I generally don't do it. There are just too many movies I haven't seen to spend time watching something I've seen already. That said, the free movie theatre on campus decided to show Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) last week and I decided to go see it again.
If you haven't seen The Lives of Others you should, of course, go see it. It's a drama about a Stasi interrogator/spy in 1980s East Germany who starts to develop affection for the man and woman that he's spying on, which leads him to quietly change his whole life around.
One of the things about not ever watching movies for a second time is that because I hardly ever revisit films I hardly ever think about them apart from their plots. So a tightly woven film that is all about plot, like The Lives of Others can have a huge impact on me using only its plot devices.
The Lives of Others is ("nothing more than" doesn't seem appropriate for a film this good) more than anything else, a really well-told melodrama. It's a personal story of betrayal and information and private meanings. Everything hinges on the plot and all of the emotional impact (the film packs a wallop) depends on the way that the plot hangs together. I didn't really recognize this the first time I saw it, but this time I noticed just how brilliantly crafted the script is. It's a small marvel of intrigue and cleverness. As I said, it's also a very moving film and works on all levels with characters that cannot help but make you love them. Don't skip this movie.

I also finally watched Antonioni's L'Eclisse this weekend. It's easily my new favorite of Antonioni's films. If you don't know this director, than you don't know quite how much this means. Antonioni's movies are always near-brilliant, and L'Eclisse completely knocks it out of the park. It's almost a silent film, filled with interior explorations and urban disaffection. The plot is really easy to describe: the main characters (Monica Vitti and Alain Delon) love one another, he chases her, she chases him, and then they kind of get bored with one another. The plot synopsis on IMDb says something about their relationship not working out because he is focused on material gain or somesuch nonsense, but that explanation misses the point of the film completely. L'Eclisse is a movie about wanting to find love and finding out that love isn't what you wanted, or that love doesn't really satisfy. The characters are dominated by their surroundings, their relationship mediated by the spaces they inhabit. It's a fascinating, gorgeous film with what has to be one of the best endings ever put on film.