Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Lives of Others.

Just got back from watching a German movie at the Asia-Europe Institute of UM. Rather enjoyed the movie except for the censorship. Part of the ending was cut out I think, leaving most of us clueless as to what was happening. I had to google it and I got the plot of the whole story from wikipedia. Actually, after reading it, I still can't figure out why they censored those parts.

The movie screened was 'The lives of Others' which won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

The plot of the whole movie from Wikipedia:

(The yellow highlighted text is the big chunk of the film cut out by the Malaysian Censorship board)

In the East Germany (GDR) of 1984, Stasi Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (HGW), a keenly idealistic supporter of the communist regime, is shown interrogating a prisoner who is suspected to know who helped another person defect to the West. In the film, this is juxtaposed with his playing a recording of the interrogation while lecturing a class on Stasi methods. One of the student in the class exclaims that sleep deprivation is "inhumane", but Wiesler replies that it is necessary. He claims that an innocent man will become enraged at the injustice, while the guilty will know he is there for a reason and will become quiet then cry. Then the prisoner is shown crying. Wiesler then points out that the prisoner has said the same thing in exactly the same words, which Wiesler claims shows that he is a liar who has rehearsed this line; someone telling the truth would say it in different ways. Eventually the prisoner provides a name.

Wiesler's old classmate, now a Lt. Colonel, assigns him to spy on playwright Georg Dreyman, who, Wiesler is told, is suspected of Western sympathies. Stasi agents secretly enter Dreyman's apartment in order to install small microphones in the light switches and electric sockets. Wiesler and his assistant Udo monitor the activity in the attic space above the apartment, typing a summary of activities for the record after each shift.

Wiesler secretly intervenes so that Dreyman will discover the relationship between Christa-Maria and the party member. A week later, when she is about to go to another meeting with Hempf, Dreyman confronts her with knowledge of her liaisons. Although they argue, Christa-Maria still leaves. Wiesler later sees her at a bar, and insinuates to her that her talent does not require her to give herself to Hempf. Although at first it seems that Christa-Maria carries out her rendez-vous with Hempf, Wiesler later learns through his underling Udo that this rendezvous in fact didn't happen and Christa-Maria went home to Dreyman after her encounter with Wiesler, although Udo is unaware of the implications of this information.

Dreyman is a supporter of the regime, but dislikes the way dissidents are treated. He publicly stands up for his friends if he feels that they have been unfairly treated. One friend, Jerska, is a director who has lost his reason to live due to being blacklisted. At Dreyman's 40th birthday party, Jerska gives Dreyman a gift of sheet music entitled "Sonata for A Good Man" (German: Sonate vom guten Menschen). Shortly afterward, Jerska commits suicide; this finally spurs Dreyman into speaking out against the regime. Dreyman arranges with West Germany's weekly magazine Der Spiegel to anonymously publish an article on suicide rates in the GDR. While the GDR publishes detailed statistics on many things, it has not published any information on suicide rates since the 1970s, presumably because they are embarrassingly high. Because all typewriters are registered, Dreyman uses a separate typewriter with a red ribbon to write the article, which he hides under the floor in his apartment. Before Dreyman and his friends discuss sensitive issues in Dreyman's apartment they test whether it is bugged: they pretend that someone will be smuggled in a relative's car over to the West. Later they conclude that the apartment is not bugged, because the car is not searched. Unknown to them, that is only because Wiesler has temporarily taken pity on them and had not understood that the discussion was in fact a test.

As Wiesler's empathy for the writer and his girlfriend has grown over time, he lies in his reports to protect Dreyman. Also, at his proposal, the hours of surveillance are reduced, so that it is no longer continuous and he no longer has to share the work with his more objective assistant. Eventually, Dreyman and his friends finish the article and it is published, upsetting the East German government.

Meanwhile, the minister, angered that Christa-Maria had chosen to no longer see him, orders Wiesler's superior, Anton Grubitz, to find some way to destroy her and tells him that she has been illegally buying prescription drugs. Grubitz and his men manage to catch her in the act of purchasing these drugs and she is arrested. Terrified, she turns Dreyman in, although she does not reveal the location of the typewriter. The house is searched for contraband by security officials, but by chance they miss the typewriter. Wiesler is called in to interrogate Christa-Maria. At this point, Grubitz begins to suspect Wiesler's newly found pity and implies that, even though they are longtime friends, a failure to perform his work will be very costly. Wiesler interrogates Christa-Maria (with his boss watching through the two-way mirror) with the same flawlessness and objectivity that characterized him for years. She breaks down and tells him where the typewriter is hidden. Wiesler, however, still determined to protect a couple he has come to care for, travels to their apartment in advance of the Stasi search team and takes the typewriter away.

During a second search, in the presence of Christa-Maria, when the hiding place of the typewriter is about to be opened, Christa-Maria leaves in shame and runs into the street, apparently throwing herself deliberately in front of a truck. The secret hiding place is opened, but is found empty. A helpless Wiesler, who is watching the events just outside the apartment, tries to tell Christa that he has the typewriter, but can't complete his words. Dreyman arrives at the scene and Christa-Maria dies in his arms. As a result the surveillance operation becomes pointless: Wiesler's superior calls it off but, distrusting Wiesler, ensures the end of his career. The newspaper lying in the front seat of Wiesler's car announces that Gorbachev is the new Party Secretary of the Sviet Union. Wiesler is demoted to Department M, where he tediously must steam-open letters all day. Four years and seven months later, Wiesler is still opening letters when a co-worker with a radio notifies him of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Upon hearing the news, Wiesler and his co-workers leave.

At the end of the film, after German reunification, Dreyman encounters the former minister at the playhouse and asks why his apartment was never bugged. The minister, now a successful businessman, ironically details the scope of Dreyman's extensive surveillance, telling him where to look for the equipment. Dreyman finds the wires and becomes perplexed why he was never caught. The Stasi's archives are now open to the public; he goes there, reads his own file, and learns the truth. While agent "HGW XX/7" must have heard Dreyman and his friends conducting anti-regime activities (such as the writing of the suicide article), HGW did not report those things in his voluminous typed notes, and falsely wrote instead that Dreyman was writing a play on the 40th anniversary of the GDR, a topic the regime would have approved. Next to the final page of notes is a smudge from the secret typewriter's red ink, proving that it was HGW who removed the typewriter. Dreyman now asks for the identity of "HGW XX/7" and is shown his name and photo. He takes a taxi and watches Wiesler for a few moments, working at his new job delivering newspapers.

Two years later, Dreyman publishes a novel "Sonata for A Good Man". By chance, Wiesler sees the book in a bookstore, and finds that it is dedicated "To HGW XX/7, with gratitude". He goes to buy the book and the cashier asks if he would like to have it gift wrapped. "No," Wiesler responds, "it's for me."

The Asian-Europe Institut of UM is having a German film month where they will screen German movies every week on Wednesdays. There's a different movie every week. It's from the 23rd January to the 27th February. Anyone interested can visit the AEI. Admission is free.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bitter sweet

Part 1 - Sweet

I actually became a product tester today. I was approached by this guy at Amcorp Mall where he asked me to test out a product that hasn't hit the shelves yet. It turned out to be a new product from Halls, a new mint candy to be precise. It was a new experience for me and it was conducted rather professionally I would say. He took us up to the company's office following many twists and turns in the corridor and even a long journey up the elevator. My roommate kept saying we would probably be drugged and and wake up with our internal organs stolen. LOL.

The guy who interviewed me was rather professional. At least he was well dressed and groomed plus he could speak impeccable English. It was a blind test with two products, one being the new product from Halls and the other an unknown brand. I rather liked the mint except that it was round it shape and coloured rather artificially. I mean, round? As soon as it is dispensed I'm sure it will roll all over the place and your mouth will be the last place it would fall into. It tasted rather like Tic-tac and the mint taste was rather weak.

I did get something after all for doing the testing. The snack plate voucher from KFC isn't too bad a compensation I thought. What? You didn't think I would do all that for free did you?

Part 2 - Bitter

I had enough with the Chinese people in my course. Three years I've been with them and still I can't accept their irresponsibility and lack of tact. Their attitude pisses me off and today I really blew it with them.I don't know whether it is their culture, mentality or just because they are schooled differently but it bores down to the issue of maturity. Spoiled to the core I would say.

Therefore, today officially I would like to take the opportunity to declare that I'm not a Chinese. I rather be race-less. Full stop.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Finger in a pie

Of course it was expected of a Tim Burton's movie to be macabre and dark, but Sweeney Todd was a tad too gruesome I would think. A story about a serial killer who teams up with a pie maker to cook up human pies? It was certainly a different kind of musical where the main musical inspiration were people getting their throats slit. One thing that kind of puzzled me was that most of the throat-slitting was uncensored but the final act of killing where the impact of the movie was to be felt was cut out (no pun intended) partially . I'm annoyed that I did not get to witness the climatic killing, slightly akin to being denied the main dish in a full course meal. It's like I only got the pie as starters leaving me hungering for more. More pie anyone?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rising signs

I've always felt that rising signs play a major part in describing someone. Mine has always been an influence of my personality and I feel it will never change.

Your Rising Sign is Scorpio

You're so intense and passionate - you're on fire!
You want to be an angel or a devil... you can't decide which.

No wonder you seem moody and even a little dangerious.
You've got some major mystery going on, so work it!

Your personality is the strongest of all signs, making you hard to deal with.
While you're ruthless to your enemies, you're loyal to your one true love.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Silence is not golden

The striking Writer's Guild of America has effectively rubbed the shine off the 65th Golden Globes Award where the ceremony was lackluster at best. Without actors and actresses, without the red carpet ceremony and without the usual witty repertoire that accompanies the presentations, the Globes this year failed to sparkle. It just showed how powerful a force the writers are behind every production on television. The pen is definitely mightier than the sword, and in this case its more of the lack of the pen that killed the show. Therein lies the power of not writing and keeping silent.

On a side note, Atonement picked up two awards which were for the best motion picture and the best original score. Now the question we should all ask is: Can Atonement make it to the Oscars?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I finally got it

Weeee. I finally got it. I bought the book today after taking such a long time searching for it at various bookshops. The book was not in stock at most bookshops and I finally had to get it at Popular and honestly, I' m not a great fan of Popular. That is usually the last place I would purchase a book and this is certainly a last resort. I really don't know how the book will fare when compared to the movie and I dare not hazard a guess. This is because I have read Stardust and it was not as good as the movie. Thus, Stardust broke my theory that books are always a better read compared to their silver screen adaptations.

To those who have not seen this movie, I strongly encourage you to do so. It is a simply beautiful movie. I won't talk much about it as you can easily find more info by googling.

And yea, the music in the movie is also just as good. One of the tunes is now my blog's theme song. :D

She may not have the curves, but she's gorgeous all the same.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Graduated modern vampire to be

I successfully drew blood today in a phlebotomy practical and it was a masterful feat for me. I managed the syringe and needle relatively smoothly despite my big big problem of nerves. While it may not be something to write home about, in my books it's simply great. Usually the person whose blood is to be drawn feels apprehensive and maybe suffers a bout of faint thereafter but in my case the person wrecked with the full-blown stress was myself. Of course I have to thank my partner who was a such a calm lady. She was the best. So after a day of great great stress, I came home with many holes on my arms and it now means that I can probably masquerade as a guy with a substance abuse problem.

Yea, I have not been updating much. I really feel out of it at the moment. When something as simple as blogging becomes a chore, it is no longer a fun thing to do. So many things to write about, so many things to tell but not in the mood to write. I actually thought that my last semester would be very much more relaxing (the amount of credit hours I have taken this semester is very very little) but then now I think it's just as busy as the semesters I had before. I wonder how did I ever cope during my first year. Hmmm...must be that I'm getting older. The exuberance of youth is evading me.

Maybe I should turn to immortality questing instead.

PS: Happy new year 2008.