Saturday, August 8, 2009


I watched two movies in the past month, both of which impacted me in different ways. They are related to each other in the sense that they both illustrate what happens to people as they make decisions in their lives. The Lives of Others, a wonderful German movie made in 2006 that won the best foreign language Oscar in 2007, is set in East Berlin during the early 1980s, when the Stasi, the East German police, controlled the movements of all the people in the State. The director's parents lived in East Berlin before the Berlin Wall fell, and he said he could sense the fear they had as subjects of the state.

In the movie, Weisler is a Stasi member who is told to bug the apartment of a prominent artist. As he listens in, little by little we see how he is changed by the decisions he makes. On Wikipedia, here is a telling quote:
At another point in the movie, the main character, Wiesler, becomes enchanted by and sympathetic to the couple he is listening in on. "Wiesler's response to those feelings [...] move in on him imperceptibly, with very little telegraphing, making them that much more convincing," Zacharek writes. Podhoretz, reviewing the movie in The Weekly Standard, ascribes the subtleness of Wiesler's response to Mühe, the actor playing him: "That scene [...] is limned with extraordinary stillness and compressed emotion by Ulrich Mühe, an actor heretofore unknown outside Germany who gives a performance so perfect in this, and every other moment in the film, that it's almost beyond words."
He becomes a transformed person, all because of dilemmas of conscience and decisions made one by one. And you have no doubt by the end that he is a really good person.

In The Talented Mr. Ripley, just the opposite happens when Tom Ripley makes one decision after another that finally end up in his becoming a very evil person. I am sorry I watched this movie, because for days afterward I felt sick every time I would think of it. This movie also depicts a person who begins with decisions to make that change him, but in this case, for the worse. A quote from Wikipedia:
In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "On balance, The Talented Mr. Ripley is worth seeing more for its undeniably delightful journey than its final destination. Perhaps wall-to-wall amorality and triumphant evil leave too sour an aftertaste even for the most sophisticated anti-Hollywood palate."
I wanted to see the movie because of Matt Damon, who played this person so well that I knew why he made the decisions he did, but I wished he hadn't. And I wished I had not seen the movie, for the reasons described in the above quote.

My rationale for writing this post is that these two movies told me, without any doubt, the decisions we make every day lead us to become good or evil. Just a few minutes ago, I saw a ripple in the birdbath and thought it was a moth that had become caught. I went out to save it, and saw instead that it was a fly. I almost walked away. I swat flies! But thinking of the decisions you make, I went back and fished out the creature and watched it soar away. A little tiny moral decision, but nonetheless one that caused me to think.


  1. Very interesting Djan. I love this idea of making different decisions. Have you seen the film "Sliding Doors"? that also deals with these themes. I, too, have been the character in these moves. I have made decisions that made me a better person and also others that didn't (I say regretfully). However, getting things in perspective, that's what makes us human, isn't it. You did the right thing to rescue the fly because the fly can't help being a fly and deserves to live, like the rest of us. Each and every one of us has a place and a task to fulfil. Now I sound like a Buddhist! Another thought, if you had seen the films the other way round, maybe you would have felt better about the "Ripley" film?
    Blessings, Star

  2. Hi Star, no, I would not have felt any better about the Ripley film had I seen it after the German film. If you haven't seen it, there is no way I can tell you how much I was pulled into the movie and how monstrous this person becomes. I was upset and felt dirty from that movie for days afterwards.

    But yes, now you do sound like a Buddhist! I guess we all have parts to play, and I too have made decisions that I wish I hadn't. And others that I am glad I made as I did. Thanks for the insightful coment!

  3. You are so right about decision making and the impact it has on our life. Just one small decision can make us have a complete course change in the path of life. This was a great post. I think I will check out that first movie. And I would have saved the fly too. I can not bring myself to even step on an ant.

  4. Interesting post, I saw Ripley and it disturbed me for a long time as well. I havent' seen the other movie, but agree with your conclusion.


  5. I’ll keep “the Lives of Others” as a movie to see, it sounds very interesting, but I won’t check the other one. We rarely go to the movies and since I do not watch much TV I do not see many movies unless we visit our daughters and they rent quite a few. I also think often about all the decisions I made in life – for example, what if I had not decided to come and visit the USA? Would I be happily married to a French man now (with free healthcare, LOL!), what if my husband had decided to take the job in Arizona instead of Atlanta? Life is truly made of constant decisions that can affect yourself as well as others – but did we truly make these decisions ourselves or were they made for us by our karma?

  6. This was a very thought-inspiring post. I have seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, but not the other one. I'll put it on my Netflix. I think all the small decisions we make on a daily basis has incredible impact. Not only for ourselves but for others. In The Intention Experiment it talkes about our thoughts being energy, that once thought, is there for eternity. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all knew our thoughts had such impact? Not only for ourselves, but our children, our neighbors, our loved ones. We are creating every minute of every day, through our thoughts.

    Good post.

  7. I had the same horrible feeling after I saw "The Talented Mr. Ripley". Just rubbed me the wrong way. I guess I just like to think that everyone is honest and nice and not out to get you. Sad that there are people like that in the world. But not you! By saving that fly you might have fed a hungry bird or frog. Think of it that way.

  8. I agree that this is a very thought provoking post. I have been thinking ugly thoughts about a particular person and situation the last few days; perhaps I need to search for my compassion.
    This is not the first time I have heard what Nancy said about thoughts being energy. One only has to look at the Eeyores of the world to see that this is true. In this way I believe that we create our own reality.

  9. I haven't seen either movie, but can really get into the premise. Every choice we make makes us just a little different than we would have been had we made a different choice. The butterfly effect... Which was another movie with perhaps a different message...

  10. A very thought provoking post, DJan and great movie reviews. I haven't seen either movie but will make an effort to see both. I agree wholeheartly - each decision we make in life has consequences whether good or bad. Making the right decision is often hard but in the end, it helps us grow in a positive light.
    I will take pause from now on and remember this post. Your decision to post will no doubt inspire many. Your words bring to mind this quote -
    "I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday."

    Thank you for visiting my blog today. It meant the world to me and yes, the woman in the video is Mary, my dear sister.

    Love and hugssss,

  11. Well, for whatever reasons motivated you to save the fly too, I think it helps to have a heart and some sympathy when it comes to everything around us in so-called Mother Nature. I did enjoy reading the post and a little about you and where you are at this stage in life.

    The Japanese Maple is in the rain. The drops of water are rain drops. To me they look like tears. I don't think the tree will make it and that would break my heart. I don't tell the tree as it has enough to deal with.

    Thank you very much for visiting my Pick a Peck of Pixels blog and for the comment you left me there.
    Pick a Peck of Pixels
    Brookville Daily Photo

  12. I've made the decision that I will have to rent "The lives of others" sometime soon.

  13. Both movies sound interesting and I might rent one or both. I believe I have seen the original version of The Talented Mr. Ripley,Purple Noon, the story line is so familiar. Perhaps I read the book. The long winters in Alaska gave me lots of time for old and foreign movies and reading. I will confess my taste in films is mostly scifi and action and leans to the darker side, totally the opposite of my personality.

    The dragonfly/damselfly photos? I used macro for most but there are a couple that I did with the telephoto. The one with the damaged wings was out on the water too far away to get a close up. The last little guy let me get the camera right in his face.


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