(BY SAÏDEH PAKRAVAN) It is not too much to say that Ulrich Muehe, the German actor who died on July 22 of stomach cancer, must have given one of the greatest screen performances ever in The Lives of Others by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Not since Buster Keaton has an impassive face expressed so much, though to be fair to both, Muehe’s star turn as Gerd Wiesler, a Stasi agent, offers a much wider range of possibilities than Keaton ever had in his comedies. Yet another great actor comes to mind who also managed to convey much by hardly moving, the Italian Gian Maria Volonté who rose to prominence in the 1970s with Francesco Rosi vehicles such as The Mattei Affair.
In The Lives of Others, Ulrich Muehe’s portrayal of the agent who lives by proxy is subtle enough to never really explain why he gradually comes to save the very people he’s been ordered to sink. His spying fills his whole life. His earphones glued to his ears, he listens attentively. He hardly speaks to his subordinates, he hardly eats, his very breathing seems shallow. Only once does he allow tears to stream down his still impassive face. For this extraordinary performance, he won the best actor award from the
Life is not fair. The 54-year old actor hardly had time to enjoy the accolades. But wherever he is now, he must know that he has made cinema history.
It’s a shame this guy died. I thought his performance in this great German movie was out of this world. When you see acting like this, you realize how flat most of the regular stuff you see can ba.