September 28, 2010

Der Wire

Having finally caught up, years too late, with the disappointing/over-rated The Lives of Others -- a GDR melodrama in which the Stasi spy, his Stasi boss, the heroic playwright, the playwright's girlfriend and the man from the Party all behave (and even look) exactly as you would expect -- I can only endorse this Zizek review. I also think that, surely inadvertently, writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck captures something about this German "ostalgie'', or nostalgia for the east: his GDR is a vanished, sealed-off, parallel world, with the melancholic appeal of a dated science-fiction modernist vision of the future, and surprisingly little seems to be at stake. It's an unreal place, without real loss. In the film's early scenes at least, I felt like I wanted to live there. Which means that Zizek is also right to say that it doesn't convey the harshness of the regime.
To put it quite brutally, while Ostalgie is widely practiced in today's Germany without causing ethical problems, one (for the time being, at least) cannot imagine publicly practicing a Nazi nostalgia: “Good Bye Hitler” instead of “Good Bye Lenin.” Doesn't this bear witness to the fact that we are still aware of the emancipatory potential in Communism, which, distorted and thwarted as it was, was thoroughly missing in Fascism?