The place is East Berlin, the year is 1984, and it all begins with a simple surveillance assignment: Capt. Gerd Wiesler, a Stasi officer and a specialist in this kind of thing, has been assigned to keep an eye on Georg Dreyman, a respected playwright, and his actress girlfriend, Christa-Maria Sieland. Though Dreyman is known to associate with the occasional dissident, like blacklisted director Albert Jerska, his record is spotless. Everything changes when Wiesler discovers that Minister Hempf has an ulterior motive in spying on this seemingly upright citizen. In other words, it's personal, and Wiesler's sympathies shift from the government to its people--or at least to this one particular person. That would be risky enough, but then Wiesler uses his privileged position to affect a change in Dreyman's life. The God-like move he makes may be minor and untraceable, but it will have major consequences for all concerned, including Wiesler himself. Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck starts with a simple premise that becomes more complicated and emotionally involving as his assured debut unfolds. The Lives of Others is always elegant, never confusing. It's class with feeling.