DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Sony Pictures Classics/March 26, 2006 (Germany); Feb. 9, 2007 (U.S.)
STORYLINE: In 1984 east Berlin, a secret-police agent spies on a writer and his actress g.f., but as he becomes immersed in the couple’s lives, his belief in the system erodes.
ABOUT THE SCRIPT: Henckel von Donnersmarck says: “Carl Jung has a theory: Everything — vice and virtue — is contained within everybody. What we choose to display is us. As screenwriters, we have to acknowledge that and write from within.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Finding it in my heart to respect every character even when they were doing terrible things.”
BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: The film ends in 1991, with former Stasi agent Wiesler buying a book by the writer, Dreyman, and discovering to his surprise that it’s dedicated to him. “I struggled with the end. I was striving to see how I could get (Wiesler and Dreyman) to meet either physically or spiritually. So I went into a room and took a calligraphy pen and channeled words through the pen. I wrote the word Widmung (“a dedication”), and within a few minutes I had it.”
CHOICE LINES: Henckel von Donnersmarck chooses a scene with no dialogue: “Wiesler has a slight change of perspective after listening to these people’s lives — they have a full life together, and he does not have a life, and he realizes this. Wiesler goes back into the writer’s apartment — which he’s only been in once to bug — with a feeling of reverence and even longing.”