Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A sudden and sad departure

We were saddened to read today of the death of actor Ulrich Mühe, who is probably now best known around the world for his role in the Oscar-winning Das Leben der Anderen ('The Lives of Others').

We saw him in a remarkable stage production of Sarah Kane's Blasted (in German) at the Barbican earlier this year. He had remarkable presence in a role that is...not an easy one.

And he was only 54.

Die Zeit has a retrospective and a nice collection of images (text in German).


Ario said...

Oh wow. You actually saw him on stage.

Rather unrelated. But I would be interested in your view on the films concerning the GDR like The Lives Of Others, Goodbye Lenin! Sonnenallee et al. My personal take is that the latter two tend to trivilise the nastier aspects of the SED regime, whereas The Lives Of Others was the first commercial film to really deal with it. I might be wrong, though.

J. Carter Wood said...

That's a very good question. Or issue.

Obviously, I didn't live through those times myself. Also, I live here in Wessi-land and have little personal contact with people who lived through the GDR period.

I very much enjoyed Sonnenallee, though. It's a funny film, and the security state is depicted more as laughable than really terrifying, as I recall.

I think that's actually one of the things I liked most about it: from an American perspective, the image of Life Behind the Iron Curtain was one of total control and unrelenting misery. You got the impression through the US media that people in the East lived like robots under constant, unrelenting oppression. Like Orwell's 1984.

Sonnenallee showed a different view, one in which people were living lives that were more difficult and less free in many ways than life in the West, but which were recognisably 'normal'.

I thought this was...well, not a revelation so much, but certainly a different perspective. And, like in Goodbye Lenin! the reaction to the collapse of GDR is an ambivalent one. I don't think either really diminishes the shortcomings of the regime, but they express what must have been a great deal of confusion and dislocation for people who had built their lives within a particular kind of system.

And those lives had many things that they valued that could not be transferred into the the new system that they then had to live in. And I think a lot of easterners were (and maybe still are) angry that that was not appreciated.

It was all too easy, I think, to reduce the lives of people living in the Warsaw Pact countries simply to 'communism', and to miss the complexities of those lives. And that's something that I thought those two films did well.

Of course, there is more than enough room for films that take a serious look at the truly dark side of that system. But I'm not sure that those perspectives are incompatible.

But then, I might be wrong too. :-)

Ario said...

Nah. I think you are right :)

Thanks for answering that. I felt a bit rude afterwards for just dumping that query here.

I completely agree that there was more than 'just' communism to life in the GDR. I studied GDR history at university and living and teaching English in Ossiland has been a real eye-opener. As you say, people just got on with their lives as good as they could back then.

Anyway, thanks for getting back to me. I am being a bit time pressed at the moment. I hope to blog some more on this at a later date. Kind regards from Leipzig,

J. Carter Wood said...

Well, maybe I am right. Happens every now and then.

It wasn't a rude question at all, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with to blog about.

Best wishes from the Rhine.

Anja said...

By the way, the London _Blasted_ was in November 2006!

J. Carter Wood said...

Oops. Yeah. Of course.

Hard to believe it was that long ago. Where is my mind?

Fucking aging process. :-)