Late last year, I sat with unblinking attention to watch Downfall, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. This German made film charts the last days of the life of Adolf Hitler (played chillingly by Bruno Ganz) in the Berlin bunker as Hitler swings between ranting around German capitulation to polite small talk like a heavily drugged mental patient as his hand shook incessantly from Parkinson’s disease. Amidst the obscenity of it all, he marries Eva Braun in the midst of hell a couple of days before they commit suicide. Not having been to the cinema for so long, I felt intensely the visual impact of such a film and the massive amplification of explosions and bombing through the cinema’s sound system. Downfall serves as a reminder that war, that determination to kill and maim people, is a sick pathology for all who support it.

The second German film I saw was The Lives of Others featuring the cold, drab heartless world of Communist East Germany in 1984, a society full of spies and informers to ensure that nobody stepped out of line. Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the film conveys with a cold precision in each clip the paranoid world of the spy and the pressure on those spied upon. Stasi, the East German secret police network, ordered Captain Gerd Wiesler (played by Ulrich Muehe) to spy with hidden microphones and round the clock attention on a leading playwright, Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), and his actress-mistress, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck).

The story conveys the hardly detectable change of heart of the Wiesler, the Stasi spy, as he feels for the plight of the playwright and his girlfriend. It is a psychological drama displaying the best, like Downfall, of European cinema. It shows the triumph of love and art over authoritarianism.

I’m convinced. There are some brilliant films out there. Last yearm the television that I had for 25 years fell off a stand that it was gingerly balanced on and broke into smithereens. A couple of months ago, I bought a new TV with a DVD player, plus amplifier and two loudspeakers. If you can strongly recommend a film that is available on DVD, e-mail me. I will see if I can rent it. I will pull the curtains, sit cross logged on the sofa, hands resting in lap, and watch the film.

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