Sunday, February 17, 2008

Brecht Poem from The Lives of Others

My favorite scene in the film The Lives of Others is when the Stasi agent Wiesler--(right, the astonishing Ulrich Mühe, who died a year later; here's his obituary in Sign and Sight)--sneaks into the apartment of Dreyman (Sebastian Koch), the playwright he is spying on. Dreyman's apartment, even empty, is alive with ideas, images, music, friendship.

In contrast, you later see Wiesler alone in his bleak antiseptic room, lying on the couch reading a book he has stolen from Dreyman's apartment (below). It's a yellow-covered volume of Bertolt Brecht's poems, one of which Wiesler had overheard on his surveillance equipment read aloud during Dreyman's birthday party.

I found the complete poem at Harper's Magazine. Here it is:
On a certain day in the blue-moon month of September
Beneath a young plum tree, quietly
I held her there, my quiet, pale beloved
In my arms just like a graceful dream.
And over us in the beautiful summer sky
There was a cloud on which my gaze rested
It was very white and so immensely high
And when I looked up, it had disappeared.

Since that day many, many months
Have quietly floated down and past.
No doubt the plum trees were chopped down
And you ask me: what's happened to my love?
So I answer you: I can't remember.
And still, of course, I know what you mean
But I honestly can't recollect her face
I just know: there was a time I kissed it.

And that kiss too I would have long forgotten
Had not the cloud been present there
That I still know and always will remember
It was so white and came from on high.
Perhaps those plum trees still bloom
And that woman now may have had her seventh child
But that cloud blossomed just a few minutes
And when I looked up, it had disappeared in the wind.

-Bertolt Brecht, “Remembrances of Marie A.,“ in Die Hauspostille (1927) (S.H. transl.)
(Bertolt Brecht, Gesammelte Werke in acht Bänden, vol. 4, p. 232)


And here is a brief (1:58) excerpt of Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck, the director of the film, talking with Charlie Rose.

Review: "Beware, The Walls Have Ears"

Neal Ascherson, the Observer's Berlin correspondent at the height of Stasi rule, is transported back to a world of mistrust and fear. He discusses how faithful The Lives of Others is it to the memory of existence under the all-seeing eye of the hated secret police.


Krista said...

I had been meaning to look that up for the past couple of months. Thanks for doing it for me.

(Isn't it a remarkable film?)

fresca said...

You're welcome! (I love when that happens--someone else answers a question I've been menaing to ask.)
Yeah, that movie is currently No. 1 on my list of favorite films.

pete said...

awesome, wanted to find that aswell. Thanks a lot:)

fresca said...

It's nice to know others like it too!

Art Luden said...

I just watched the film tonight. Those words moved me also and prompted me to search for them. Thanks for sharing the beautiful sentiment. It is appreciated.

fresca said...

I was surprised it took me some searching to find it, so if I've made it possible for people to find it here, I am very glad.
Thanks for letting me know.

tam said...

thank you, thank you for posting this poem. I too, fell in love with it after watching the movie :-) merci !

Tom said...

"I held her there, my quiet, pale beloved" what a beautiful line

Onkar Joshi said...

Thanks for the post!

Beautiful lines.

steph said...

i just watched that film again earlier this week, its my favourite film of all time i think, the bit at the end always makes me cry. i love the brecht exercept. its such a well done film. thank you for posting it:)

fresca said...

I had to search around to find this poem myself--I had thought it would be easier to find. People continue to find it here, so I'm very glad I posted it!

And I'm very glad you all let me know--it's a good connection through a good poem through a good film.

tyler said...

I just watched the movie too and I looked up for Brecht's poem and found it here. Thank you for the post. Wonderful movie.

Nadsat Orange said...

this movie scene made my mind explode! one of the best movies i ce ever watched! i was searching for the poem lines! thanks for posting them!

Pratyush Roy said...

Floran wud never b able to make such a gud movie again coz he's delivered his all conscience into it....and the Bertolt Brecht's poem 'Remembrance', according to his style, makes u think on it n not just feel it...i'm speechless.