The Transcendent Nature of Sound in The Lives of Others

1320 Words6 Pages
The human ability to perceive sound is often taken for granted and is erroneously considered, by most, to be secondary in importance to sight. It is true that our primary understanding of the world develops through sight, but sound is responsible for our ability to communicate with one another through both concrete and abstract means, as well as for defining the nuances that shape our surroundings. Without sound, humans would be alienated in their own uncertainty; unable to express the fears and aspirations which are common to our condition. Sound has the unique ability to transcend boundaries, cultures, and ideologies through speech, music, and the noises which we distinguish categorically through memory and experience. It is this transcendental quality of sound which Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck chose as a central theme in the film “The Lives of Others”. The film expresses beautifully the effect that music and language have upon our ability to feel empathy and compassion. The use of sound in the film explores the human potential for change and transformation from our basest instincts toward nobler causes.

The film is about change and every element of sound functions to reinforce that theme. The opening sequence uses an audio recording of a prisoner’s interrogation to transcend space and time. The scene bridges sound from the actual interrogation, where the sound is synchronized with the prisoner speaking the words, to a training session for future interrogators, where the sound is now simultaneous with a recording from the interrogation. The actuality of this recording is used to instruct the students in the art of extracting information and confessions from enemies of the state. The theme of change is asserted when on...

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The Lives of Others experimented with the use of sound as an element to convey narrative structure and did so brilliantly. The use of music is an accomplishment which celebrates the arts as an essential part of our human condition. If our right to express ourselves freely is imposed upon, we can no longer communicate our deepest thoughts and no longer discover that we are all united by the same qualities. Our need for love and companionship transcends our political aspirations or ideological shortcomings. We are human and we need other human in order to give our lives a deeper and richer meaning than just the solitary musings or an ideal world. This film took these ideas and expressed them with a piece of music which was able to break down a wall around a human’s heart and function as a symbol for the greater global instance of the Berlin Wall’s demise.
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