Interiors from The Lives of Others

Interiors from The Lives of Others

Maxwell Ryan
May 26, 2009

"If I keep listening to it, I won't finish the revolution"

Lenin on listening to Beethoven's 'Appassionata'

I'll never forget the weeks I spent in Eastern Germany right after the Wall fell in the early 90's. For three weeks I walked the streets and drove around the countryside. It was half nightmare, half dream. And despite the grey buildings and environmental damage, the austerity and simplicity of the landscape had a beauty to it that made me feel that we had lost something in the West. Just, imagine no advertising or graffitti in the subway....

All of these memories came flooding back last year when I saw The Lives of Others for the first time. Aside from winning the Oscar for best foreign film in 2007 and being a deeply moving and inspirational piece of work, the interiors stayed with me for days. The director painstakingly recreated them within the original buildings. They are beautiful and do not exist anywhere else.

The pictures here are taken from the film, and don't show enough, but if you look closely you will notice that there are two dominant styles at play here - the grey state style and the warmer personal style of the film's lead, a playwrite named Georg Dreyman. While the rooms that display the former are mesmerizing, it is Georg's apartment that excites. Large, airy and filled with old furniture and art, it is an artist's home, but one before multimedia, computers and too much plastic. There's a great party scene.

While not colorful, his home is warm, cozy and personal - the sort of place where you could imagine curling up and reading a book (or writing a book for that matter). Tones are browns and reds and plenty of dirty whites. This is the modest home of passion and personal dignity in the film, and it inspired me to rethink how I approach interior design.

Throughout, ALL of the interiors are modest. None of them scream money, flash namebrands or seek to overpower. The rooms sit quietly back while the humanity of the inhabitants come forward. As a viewer, it creates a rich experience, and as a designer it reminded me that the aim of design is to enable humanity, not distract from it.

If you've never had a chance to visit Eastern Europe, particularly in the early 90's, go see this film. It is an interior designer's feast.

(Re-Edited from 2008-01-11 - MGR)

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