I mentioned this previously, when I saw it in my German class. I have seen it again in the cinema, this time with subtitles, so I actually understand everything that happens now. As you know, this is about this guy Wiesler who works for the East German Ministerium für Staatssicherheit. His particular speciality is bugging, but he is also adept at interrogation. At the behest of the sluglike Minister for Culture, Wiesler puts this playwright guy under surveillance. It rapidly transpires the Minister wants the playwright out of the way so that he can have untrammelled access to the playwright's common law wife (an actress), with whom he is having a sordid and exploitative affair. The film follows Wiesler as he spies on the couple, developing a sympathy for them and a distaste for the venality of the regime's hierarchy.
There are loads of films to compare this too – Red Road would be a recent example, or that The Conversation film that I have never seen. It is very much a film about voyeurism and about vicarious living (for all their problems, the playwright and the actress love each other, while Wiesler lives alone). It goes beyond Red Road in being about an actual political situation, critiquing the panopticon state in way that Red Road ultimately never does. The film is very evocative of its setting, using Prenzlauerberg and Friedrichshain locations (and actual Ministerium für Staatssicherheit interiors and exteriors) to great effect. I particularly liked that the film ended in the Karl Marx Buchhandlung on Karl Marx Allee, wherein I purchased my Stalinallee boardgame (for which I have still been unable to find English language rules).
The music is great too – you can say what you like about the East Germans, but they made far better non-weirdo music than the BRDs. Most of the music is not on compilations that I already have, so I was pleased to learn on the Interweb that there is a soundtrack album for the film. The track I am most looking forward to is the one playing when the actress comes back to the flat after Wiesler approaches her in a Prenzlauerberg dive bar.