Remembering the Stasi in a Fairy Tale of Redemption: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen

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Drawing on Alison Landsberg’s concept of ‘prosthetic memory’ (2003) and Aleida Assmann’s ‘mode of empathetic identification’ (2006), this article examines von Donnersmarck’s début feature Das Leben der anderen in relation to the surge of recent films about the Nazi past and the Holocaust. The award-winning Stasi-film uses similar narrative paradigms as Schindler’s List and The Pianist, thereby invoking the association between Stasi and Nazi and exploiting familiar cinematic stereotypes. Like in these fairy-tales-of-horror (Bathrick 2000), historical truth is sacrificed for melodrama and suspense. Das Leben der anderen re-imagines the burdened and traumatic memory of the Stasi as a universal tale of redemption. Unlike the East German filmmaker Frank Beyer, whose film Der Verdacht looks back in anger at the Stasi state, the Western vantage point of Das Leben der anderen invites its audience to look back in empathy, thus making a controversial contribution to the memory contests about Germany’s second dictatorship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-333
Number of pages13
JournalOxford German Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • contemporary German cinema; Ostalgie; legacy of the GDR; representation of the Stasi

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