When I was in 6th grade I saw Pan’s Labyrinth in theaters, which may have not been a great idea, but it was amazing. I was obsessed with it. So, when the Oscar’s came around I obviously put it as my choice to win Best Foreign Film. I was naive at that time and ignorant to all of the other foreign films at the time. So, when its name wasn’t called as the winner, I was quite upset. 

Several years later, on a hot summer day, I was on a foreign film kick, introducing myself to recent quality foreign films. The Lives of Others, the film that so rudely took the prize from Pan’s Labyrinth, was on the list. 

I watched it, and it became clear why it had one over Pan’s Labyrinth. 

The film takes place in East Berlin in 1984, and it follows a secret police agent, who begins to listen on a playwright and his actress girlfriend. Their entire apartment is bugged, and our agent, played Ulrich Muhe who sadly died a year after the films release, soon becomes invested in the lives of the people he is surveilling. 

The film covers the last years of the dreaded Berlin Wall and is powerfully acted. It is sort of reminiscent of Coppola’s The Conversation in the sense of becoming absorbed into someone else’s life. It is brilliantly directed too, and it has one of my favorite closing line’s in a movie. 

Thinking about this and Pan’s Labyrinth, it is kind of obvious why it won, not based on the qualities but based on the genres. When the Academy Awards focuses on the more dramatic and artful movies over the fantastical, dark and poetic films, it is obvious that The Lives of Others won over Pan’s Labyrinth.

So, if you want to see a great foreign film, starring a man who looks suspiciously like Kevin Spacey, and if you’re a history buff about the Cold War and such, check this out.