Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck had always been fascinated by the Stasi, the East German secret police who took spying on the public to an almost absurd extreme. During his meticulous research about them for THE LIVES OF OTHERS, he became something of an expert on their procedures, consulting not only scholarly experts, but also by including on his film crew and cast people who had been on the wrong side of the Stasi before the Berlin Wall fell. During a wide-ranging conversation on January 17, 2007, he described what it was like filming on location in the former Stasi headquarters, the differences between fact and fiction in getting the right take on a story, and his own family’s brush with being under surveillance.
THE LIVES OF OTHERS is a fictionalized account of the conflict between art and politics, power and trust in East Germany five years before the Berlin Wall fell. The story follows the lives of a playwright, his actress girlfriend, and the Stasi officer who volunteers to monitor them, eavesdropping on every facet of their lives, every hour of every day, seven days a week. The film co-stars Ulrich Mühe, Martina Gedeck, and Sebastian Koch. von Donnersmark directed from his own script.