The Transformation of the Lives of Others: Space, Sensuality and Spectator Complicity in Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and von Donnersmarck’s Das Leben der Anderen

The Transformation of the Lives of Others: Space, Sensuality and Spectator Complicity in... ABSTRACT This article reads von Donnersmarck’s film Das Leben der Anderen in the light of Kafka’s story Die Verwandlung, suggesting that the works bear a striking and as yet unnoticed similarity on the level of story, while diverging significantly in terms of plot. The aim of the comparison is to explore notable aspects of this similarity through the presentations of space, sensual experience and spectator complicity, while raising wider points about the functions and capabilities of different media. I propose the concept of erlebtes Zeigen in my reading of Das Leben der Anderen as a contrast to Kafka’s use of erlebte Rede. I question just how it is that such a similar story may be told to such different effect. The point of this comparison is to undertake a new reading of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s 2006 film Das Leben der Anderen in the light of Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung (first published in 1915) and in so doing to explore some more general issues about the difference between story and plot. Although Das Leben der Anderen seemingly has little in common with Die Verwandlung, my reading proposes that they in fact tell the same story. They do so, however, in different ways, from different perspectives and, consequently, with starkly different tones and resolutions. Their comparison therefore enables an exploration of one of the fundamental aspects of narrative analysis, namely the distinction between what actually happens and how it is organized in narrative. Since Aristotle’s Poetics, emplotting stories has been viewed as a way of making sense of the apparent randomness of everyday life. The imposition of plots, moulding a story into a beginning, middle and end, which Aristotle says is necessary for completeness, is what distinguishes narrative from reality.1 But what the comparison of Kafka and von Donnersmarck illustrates is that narrative has more than just an organizing function; it also shapes the way the audience may interpret the events of life. Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen present tales of transformation: one from man to monster, the other from someone morally ‘unmenschlich’ into ‘ein[en] guten Mensch’ (3.14; 1.05.40).2 The protagonists face potential reckonings through the transformative power of music: Kafka’s Gregor listens to his sister playing the violin and questions ‘War er ein Tier, da ihn Musik so ergriff?’, while in von Donnersmarck’s film Stasi Captain Wiesler overhears Dreyman playing the piano and then Dreyman asks, ‘Kann jemand, der diese Musik gehört hat, ich meine wirklich gehört hat, noch ein schlechter Mensch sein?’ (54.36).3 Art uncovers humanity. Except that is not the full story because Gregor is then shooed back into his lonely room and experiences a miserable death, while Wiesler undergoes a Saul/Paul metamorphosis, what Owen Evans calls his ‘Damascene conversion’, and ultimately redeems himself.4 These works thus tell similar stories but in reverse, and one leaves us with a profound sense of despondency while the other offers a glimmer of hope. This, I argue, is due to more than simply the reversed narrative directions. Both works are about enclosure and exposure, surveillance and moral complicity, bodies and souls. It is therefore in the light of the themes of space, sensuality and spectator complicity that I undertake the analysis of how such different works can in fact be so similar, or indeed vice versa. This comparison and mode of analysis engender new readings of both works.5 I also propose the concept of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ to suggest a visual equivalent of ‘erlebte Rede’, whereby the cinematic or theatrical space may be subtly inflected with the character’s tacit mood and feelings. Space as viewer, space as self Both Das Leben der Anderen and Die Verwandlung depict spaces of enclosure and spaces of spectatorship. These spaces are simultaneously stifling and exposing. But the differences in the form of their depictions are instructive in the wider discussion about story and plot, and intermediality. Because the lines between the characters and their spaces become obfuscated (both retreat into darkness to watch the lives of others – a situation akin to that of the cinema audience), and there is an emphasis placed on physical, tactile, sensual experience, our sense of affinity with and empathy for the characters heightens, while our location blurs with theirs.6 Both Gregor and Wiesler retreat from the centre stage into the shadows of the audience stalls. Gregor shifts from his successful Oedipal development, being the family breadwinner and slowly climbing the career ladder, to being financially, socially and physically impotent. This marks a symbolic rather than a physical withdrawal from the centre stage. But even when his sister enters the room to deliver or to clear food, he retreats as far as possible under the sofa so as to avoid being seen. Wiesler, at the start of the film, is similarly presented as located in the proverbial and literal limelight. The lecture room in which he performs to trainee Stasi officers is light and airy; Wiesler stands in the middle of the stage at the front of the auditorium. But then as a man in the audience asks a morally defiant question (‘Warum müssen Sie ihn so lange wach halten? Ich meine … das ist doch unmenschlich’, 3.14), and Wiesler places a black mark next to the man’s name on a sheet of paper in front of him, we are reminded that he is not simply a performer but simultaneously remains part of the audience, incessantly scrutinizing and acting on those around him. When the theatricality of this scene is echoed in the performance of Dreyman’s play, Wiesler is now situated in the wings of the theatre, complete with opera glasses, through which he watches members of the audience rather than the play itself. This dictates the general theatrical topography of Wiesler’s place in the story, much like Gregor’s shift in family significance. Where Wiesler’s opening lecture theatre is light and central, the surveillance attic is dark, marginal and hidden. Wiesler and Gregor ultimately become commensurate with the spaces they inhabit, and the differences in form bring us back to the central question of story and plot. The protagonists’ locations act as mirrors to their inner worlds and symbolic objectifications of their beings. On a visual level, this quickly becomes obvious in Das Leben der Anderen, where Wiesler’s ubiquitous grey clothing blends chameleon-like into the slate grey walls of the attic. The geometric lines of his zip and pockets, and the triangular shapes on his jacket find a visual echo in the sharp lines of the apartment layout, which he draws in chalk on the floor of the attic; the narrow lines on the corduroy material are repeated in the narrow lines of the attic plan partitions, and even the diagonal beams of the attic roof are at the same angle as his diagonal pockets [Figures 1, 2 and 3]. When we return with Wiesler to his own apartment, the camera slowly pans the room offering an insight into Wiesler’s own domestic space, a space that should define him. However, the neat, functional but unhomely room speaks instead of lack, of what is not there. Its subdued, cool colours are in stark contrast to the warm glow constantly pervading Dreyman’s apartment, and the black and white television set broadcasting GDR propaganda is a poor substitute for real human noise, colour and feeling. He seems more at home in the attic with his vicarious life lived through the walls. Figure 1: View largeDownload slide The fine lines of corduroy Figure 1: View largeDownload slide The fine lines of corduroy Figure 2: View largeDownload slide Drawing the space as a self-portrait: fine lines and triangles Figure 2: View largeDownload slide Drawing the space as a self-portrait: fine lines and triangles Figure 3: View largeDownload slide Jacket triangles lining up with attic beams Figure 3: View largeDownload slide Jacket triangles lining up with attic beams In Die Verwandlung, Gregor’s changes are also mirrored in the changes to his room, and indeed in a letter to his publisher on 25 October 1915, Kafka stipulated that ‘das Insekt’ must never be depicted, but instead the cover illustration could be either ‘die Eltern und der Prokurist vor der geschlossenen Tür oder noch besser die Eltern und die Schwester im beleuchteten Zimmer, während die Tür zum ganz finsteren Nebenzimmer offensteht’.7 Gregor, via erlebte Rede, even uses the word ‘verwandeln’ to describe the transformation of his comfortable, familiar room into an animalistic, lonely cave, which inevitably recalls the ‘Verwandlung’ of the title (162). His family soon see him as synonymous with the room, and after his sister has cleared the food while their parents wait outside, ‘mußte sie ganz genau erzählen, wie es in dem Zimmer aussah, was Gregor gegessen hatte, wie er sich diesmal benommen hatte’ (158). The appearance of the room is given priority over the disappearance of the food, which in turn comes before Gregor’s own behaviour. The room and the food therefore appear to tell them more than Gregor himself. At the start of his new life, by listening to and watching the space around him rather than the people in it, Gregor notices a change in his family: Im Wohnzimmer war, wie Gregor durch die Türspalte sah, das Gas angezündet, aber während sonst zu dieser Tageszeit der Vater seine nachmittags erscheinende Zeitung der Mutter und manchmal auch der Schwester mit erhobener Stimme vorzulesen pflegte, hörte man jetzt keinen Laut. Nun vielleicht war dieses Vorlesen, von dem ihm die Schwester immer erzählte und schrieb, in der letzten Zeit überhaupt aus der Übung gekommen. Aber auch ringsherum war es so still, trotzdem doch gewiß die Wohnung nicht leer war. ‘Was für ein stilles Leben die Familie doch führte’, sagte sich Gregor. (143–44) In the absence of human gestures, Gregor begins to read the gestures of space, where even silence tells him something of human feelings, so the space itself almost comes to life. Gregor learns of the family’s presence by the sight of the lit gas lamp and he knows of their movements because of the sound of hesitant doors opening and rapidly closing. The space begins to speak more while the family fall silent. When Gregor comments to himself that they lead ‘ein stilles Leben’, the phrase conjures still life, in the sense of a painting of static objects as well as in the sense of a quiet life. This accentuates the role reversal between animate, talkative space and still, static, silent inhabitants. The increasing importance of space is symbiotically linked too to the increasing sense of human isolation. Gregor’s increased blurring with his surroundings is constructed from multiple perspectives and on different narrative levels: he describes the stasis of his family in his own words, but the transformation of his room reflects his own subjective perceptions only implicitly via erlebte Rede, and much of this transformation is orchestrated by the actions of his family who remove the furniture, before his sister is then made to recreate the room in narrative for the benefit of her parents waiting outside. In Das Leben der Anderen, the similarity between Wiesler and his surroundings is somewhat different. There are no other characters manoeuvring objects, dimming lights or donning costumes. Rather Wiesler stands alone in the attic that so closely resembles him. When the camera angle [Figure 3] moves to the point of view of Wiesler’s screen (as we almost look back at him watching the screen – a kind of breaking of the fourth wall), the shot is low, so we look slightly up at him and the beams behind him, the angularity of which echoes his stance and the angles of his clothing. This creates what I would call ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ rather than ‘erlebte Rede’; that is, the cinematic narrator subtly reflects the character’s subjective perspective by manipulating camera angles and colour rather than words. Mohammad Ghaffary and Amir Ali Nojoumian have suggested the notion of ‘free indirect discourse’ specifically in narrative film. They suggest that it is generally defined as the ‘polyphonic mixing of the narrator’s and the character-focalizer’s voices’, but they also identify instances of free indirect discourse in ‘those points in the narrative where objectivity and subjectivity […] merge together and the narrative becomes ambiguous from this viewpoint’.8 This is subtly distinct from my notion of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ located, for example, in Wiesler’s surveillance attic. As Wiesler walks through the attic and looks down at the screen showing the outside of Dreyman’s apartment, the perspective does not notably change. The surveillance TV screen emphasizes the presence not only of the dual perspective of character but also of us, the cinema spectators; we watch a screen that shows the character watching a screen.9 All three perspectives are maintained throughout much of the film, but what occurs at this moment is something greater and subtler than the polyphony of perspectives mentioned by Ghaffary and Nojoumian. The angle and the lighting that frame Wiesler and his clothes as part of the space he inhabits do not change our view of what is happening or suggest that a different point of view may have taken over the narration, but they do offer a glimpse into his character and mood, not necessarily aspects of himself of which even he is aware. We may see this kind of subjectivity as distinct from that of a storyteller, for it furthers the depth of character rather than altering our perception of the action. By the end of both the film and the story, the protagonists have become so tightly interwoven with the spaces they inhabit that, as the characters themselves disappear into nothing (Gregor’s death, Wiesler’s professional demise), the spaces too are destroyed. We see Dreyman tearing his apartment apart in search of bugging devices, and the Samsa family elect to leave the space infected by Gregor. The stories follow closely similar lines, but by emplotting spaces in different ways our locations as physical viewer and moral accomplice in both works are ultimately very different. Sensuality: feeling versus seeing, showing versus telling Where the particular depictions of space in Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen diminish the sense of physical separation between the characters and their locations, and by extension also between the audience and the characters, the emphatic evocation of sensory – particularly tactile – experience enhances this effect, increasing our sense of affinity with the characters. As their physical experience comes to the fore, so too do we have a greater insight into their psychological experience. But the unavoidable prioritization of sight and sound in cinema compared to the sensually egalitarian possibilities of literature leads to different evocations of sensory experience in these two works, and thus also contributes to the different perspectives, morals and conclusions of both stories. Kafka’s story of physical transformation involves detailed description of bodily experience and this in part contributes to the sense of what Emily Troscianko calls his performance ‘on the tightrope between the “realistic” and the “unreal-seeming” ’ or, as Ritchie Robertson observes with reference to Der Proceß: ‘the Realist background lends credibility to the fantasy, yet the fantasy exposes the Realism as a flimsy contrivance.’10 Part of this dichotomy lies in the contradiction between Kafka’s almost cinematic style, with his interest in the cinema’s ‘Überwältigungseffekten und rasenden Bildfolgen, seiner Schockästhetik und den Trivialitäten seiner Sujets, mit einzelnen Motiven ebenso wie mit der Dramaturgie seiner Bewegungskunst’, and the impossibility of straightforward visualization in Die Verwandlung, where he specified: ‘Das Insekt selbst kann nicht gezeichnet warden.’11 It is less obvious that sensuous experience would be so strongly evoked in a film about a moral transformation, but part of von Donnersmarck’s aim was to create what Evelyn Finger calls a ‘metaphorische[n] Hyperrealismus’ that conjured the visual essence of the GDR.12 In a lecture at the University of Cambridge in 2008 in the DVD Director’s Commentary, von Donnersmarck says that to convey the essence of the drabness of the GDR he deliberately avoided using bright blue and red in the film, although ‘Of course, they had reds and blues – red was the colour of socialism after all – but the impression was right.’13 Critics have commented on the use of colour and sound in the film; music is at the heart of the plot, and a story about surveillance – the voyeuristic observation and eavesdropping on other people – inevitably prioritises the visual and the aural aspects of sensory perception.14 But far less has been said about the evocation of other forms of sensory experience. One of the starkest points of the comparability in story and yet contrast in plot between Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen lies in the presentation of touch, and this, I would argue, is crucial in terms of plot, character and audience experience. At the beginning of Die Verwandlung, once Gregor has awoken to his new condition, he measures the degree of changes to reality by considering the familiar space around him, namely his bedroom. Rather than dwelling on this space, the narrator leads us to one lone photograph decorating the wall: ‘Es stellte eine Dame dar, die, mit einem Pelzhut und einer Pelzboa versehen, aufrecht dasaß und einen schweren Pelzmuff, in dem ihr ganzer Unterarm verschwunden war, dem Beschauer entgegenhob’ (115–16). Eggenschwiller questions: ‘why does Kafka stylistically mark that passage with the odd comment that the woman’s whole forearm had vanished (“verschwunden war”) into her muff, as though such a disappearance were uncanny rather than commonplace?’15 The animality of this erotic photograph (there is after all more fur visible than skin) suggests that Gregor may have felt a prophetic attraction to the animalistic even before his transformation. The triple repetition of ‘Pelz’ furthermore aurally emphasises the tactility of the image, so the sense of touch is visually evoked in the picture, and then aurally evoked in the sound of the narrator’s words – an effect that is notably distinct from cinematic form, which is led more by images than by words. Later in the story, when Gregor has learnt to crawl on walls, his sister and mother resolve to clear the furniture from his room in an effort to make him more comfortable in his creaturely state. Initially pleased with this prospect, Gregor then questions the idea: Hatte er wirklich Lust, das warme, mit ererbten Möbeln gemütlich ausgestattete Zimmer in eine Höhle verwandeln zu lassen, in der er dann freilich nach allen Richtungen ungestört würde kriechen können, jedoch auch unter gleichzeitigem, schnellen, gänzlichen Vergessen seiner menschlichen Vergangenheit? (162) But despite noting that the room is comfortably furnished with inherited family furniture, and commenting that the women ‘nahmen ihm alles, was ihm lieb war’, while ‘er wußte wirklich nicht, was er zuerst retten sollte’, Gregor fixes on ‘das Bild der in lauter Pelzwerk gekleideten Dame’ as the item most worth saving (164–65). This recent addition to his room, a magazine cut-out of a woman who seems more animal than human, is hardly the representation of the ‘menschliche[n] Vergangenheit’ he wishes to preserve. The way in which he ‘kroch eilends hinauf und preßte sich an das Glas’ is also palpably erotic, and many critics have taken up this thread (165). Peter Waldeck notes the allusion to Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s story Venus in Furs, the hero of which is called Gregor, and Elizabeth Boa suggests that the picture is ‘evocative of the furry animality of the female genitalia’.16 The masturbatory act of Gregor pressing himself against this picture is clear, but an aspect of further sensory note is not only what comes after this act (as discussed by Boa, Breen and Eggenschwiler for example), but also what comes before. This sexual climax is prefaced by a degree of what might be seen as foreplay, one moreover that links sensuality with space in the story. Before mounting the picture, Gregor increasingly indulges his new ability to climb on the ceiling: Besonders oben auf der Decke hing er gern; es war ganz anders, als das Liegen auf dem Fußboden; man atmete freier; ein leichtes Schwingen ging durch den Körper; und in der fast glücklichen Zerstreutheit, in der sich Gregor dort oben befand, konnte es geschehen, daß er zu seiner eigenen Überraschung sich losließ und auf den Boden klatschte. (159) The symbolism of climbing up, getting carried away in the enjoyment of the situation, and prematurely crashing down again until practice has honed the skill, is palpably erotic. Gregor’s mother and sister then strip the room bare (an act which is both infantile and incestuous in the circumstances), before Gregor presses himself against the evocation of female genitalia (as Boa suggests), poised on the wall, half way between ceiling and floor (the room’s ‘head and toes’ as it were), so this becomes the climax of a longer communion with space. This also comes shortly before Gregor notes a change in his father. Where Herr Samsa was previously weak and frail, a man ‘der müde im Bett vergraben lag, wenn früher Gregor zu einer Geschäftsreise ausgerückt war; der ihn an Abenden der Heimkehr im Schlafrock im Lehnstuhl empfangen hatte; gar nicht recht imstand war, aufzustehen, sondern zum Zeichen der Freude nur die Arme gehoben hatte’, he is now ‘recht gut aufgerichtet’ (168–69). Bed here is not a site of eroticism, but is associated with death (with the pun on ‘vergraben’) and sleep (‘Schlafrock’), and the ‘Lehnstuhl’ represents the opposite of his newly erect state. Gregor seems to have regressed to an inexperienced adolescent sexuality, while his father has rediscovered a potency that had seemed lost. When Herr Samsa pelts his son with apples and the latter loses his ‘Sehkraft’, not only the Oedipal punishment for attempting to usurp his father, but also the resurrection of the father himself (typically for Kafka) seem complete.17 In conjunction with his increasing focus on the bodily, and his communion with inanimate objects and spaces rather than with living beings, Gregor also experiences a loss of language. Anniken Greve argues that this linguistic loss is at the heart of the story: the denial of the human condition turns out to be fatal, not least because Gregor is deprived of a comprehensible human language. […] He clearly recognizes the importance of conversation in order to stay human: his attempt at communicating is essentially an attempt at communicating his humanity to them, assuming that the inclusion in the human conversation sustains his inclusion ‘in den menschlichen Kreis’, and he regards his progressively lowered awareness of what is important to him as a human being to be a consequence of his being excluded from the human conversation.18 Kimberly Sparks, moreover, suggests that the newspaper is a symbolic correlative of the home’s power dynamics: ‘Wer oben am Tisch sitzt, hat das Recht, Zeitung zu lesen und die Zeitung selbst ist zeremonielles Gut geworden.’19 Stanley Corngold continues this thread: The person in power at any moment reads or manipulates the newspaper. Gregor has clipped the love object that hangs on his wall from an illustrated newspaper; his evening custom as head of the family had been to sit at the table and read the newspaper. It is a sorry comment on his loss of power and identity within the family that it is on newspaper that his first meal of garbage is served; the father meanwhile, downcast for a while, fails to read the newspaper aloud to the family.20 Gregor has lost both his ability to communicate as well as the symbolic representation of (patriarchal) power in the form of the newspaper, which now exists for him not in linguistic terms (he no longer reads aloud to his family) but only in association with images and tastes (the picture and the food). The loss of language involves the heightened significance of sensory perception, and this is a dehumanizing shift. The imbalance between sensuality and language is echoed in Das Leben der Anderen, and again here it diminishes the distinction between subject and space, and increases the affinity between spectator and character by enhancing the evocation of physical experience. It also raises a crucial point about characterization and plot, creating a link between Wiesler the Stasi Captain and Sieland the actress, which suggests a turning point in the film and acts as one of the most significant distinctions in terms of emplotment between Das Leben der Anderen and Die Verwandlung by creating what I would suggest acts as a split perspective. After attending the performance of a new play written by an outwardly devoted citizen of the GDR, the Stasi Captain Wiesler suggests that the playwright should be placed under surveillance, an operation Wiesler then heads himself. The playwright Georg Dreyman lives with his lover, Christa-Maria Sieland. Sieland apparently represents the antithesis of Wiesler. Where he lives the life of an ascetic, she is defined by her sensuality. She, like Gregor’s eroticized photograph, frequently wears a fur hat, as well as a silk dress, a silk blouse, a fluffy dressing gown, a felt coat, a velvet dress and a fluffy jumper [Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7, for example]. She is repeatedly clothed in emphatically sensuous materials. These items of clothing do not just speak of an exuberance and luxury ill-fitting the traditional image of the GDR, thereby indicating her favoured position among the elite, but they are also crucially visually sensual. Where we witnessed the sensual effect of linguistic repetition in Die Verwandlung’s emphasis on ‘Pelz’, a similar effect is achieved here through visual repetition. Even when simply presented as images on screen, without commentary or having particular attention drawn to them, the fur, the silk and the fluff are nevertheless visually able to evoke the sense of touch for the viewer. This sensuality is, moreover, commensurate with Sieland’s character more generally. She becomes the focus of attention because she is Dreyman’s lover – or perhaps it is the other way around. Minister Hempf wants Dreyman investigated and placed under surveillance in part because he is himself infatuated with Sieland; as Grubitz says, ‘Wir helfen also einen ZK Mitglied seinen Rivalen aus dem Weg zu schaffen’ (36.50). We see Sieland dancing, taking illegal pills, having sex, and showering repeatedly, all of which emphasise her physicality. Figure 4: View largeDownload slide Visually tactile materials: the silk dress Figure 4: View largeDownload slide Visually tactile materials: the silk dress Figure 5: View largeDownload slide The fur hat and felt coat Figure 5: View largeDownload slide The fur hat and felt coat Figure 6: View largeDownload slide The fluffy dressing gown Figure 6: View largeDownload slide The fluffy dressing gown Figure 7: View largeDownload slide Framed by the sheepskin headboard Figure 7: View largeDownload slide Framed by the sheepskin headboard Unlike Dreyman the playwright, Sieland is not defined by her use of words. Her emphatic physicality – like Gregor’s – brings with it a diminished linguistic agency. Repeatedly she remains silent in the face of a barrage of questions: first, while dancing at the party after the play, Dreyman asks Sieland of Hempf: ‘Warum schaut er uns immer so an? Was macht er überhaupt hier? Ich glaube er hat einen Narren an dir gefressen,’ to which she says absolutely nothing but simply smiles (12.25). Again, when in Minister Hempf’s car in a conversation that lasts for almost two minutes before they have sex, Sieland says three words, speaking for just two seconds, but otherwise remains silent (40.45–42.28). At Dreyman’s birthday party, furthermore, where the refrain ‘Ich hatte ausdrücklich gesagt, keine Bücher’ recurs as guests do indeed present Dreyman with books, Sieland instead gives him a tie, saying ‘Du hast doch gesagt, du willst keine Bücher’ (30.23; 34.20; 27.30). She stands for silence and sensuality. The tie not only represents another item of clothing – they discuss its pointless luxury – and a costume for him to play the bourgeois role on his birthday, but in the circumstances it also articulates the absence of words. Indeed, Rinke notes that Martina Gedeck, who plays Sieland, departed from various script cues given by von Donnersmarck, choosing not to beg, cry or panic, as he instructed in some of the most emotionally fraught scenes, but instead showing a much quieter composure.21 Dreyman and Wiesler recognise a psychological change in Sieland, her loss of confidence and increasing self-doubt. But they perceive this not in what she says, but in what she does; the illicit medication and her sexual favours to Hempf – both of which involve the use and abuse of her body – indicate her increasing despondency and desperation. So it appears that Sieland epitomizes the diametric opposite of Wiesler. But through imagery and perspective, the two characters become subtly intertwined, and this is also where a particularly crucial piece of evidence of the emotive power of perspective is to be found. Sieland and Wiesler both act as connections between Dreyman and the Stasi, and although they start on opposite sides of the divide, with Sieland loyal to Dreyman and Wiesler loyal to the Stasi, they eventually swap places. This complicates Gary Schmidt’s observation that ‘the masculine/feminine binarisms constructed in Das Leben der Anderen reinforce traditional gender hierarchies that ascribe to the masculine the qualities of spirit, intellect, and reason […] and to the feminine the qualities associated with materiality and corporality.’22 First, there are linguistic parallels between the two characters. Like Sieland, Wiesler also frequently prefers silence to talking, for example in the face of Grubitz’s opportunistic conversation and inconsequential banter when they have lunch together – a lunch scene that lasts for over four and a half minutes, of which Wiesler speaks for a total of only ten seconds (35.43–40.02). Both are more accustomed to repeating the words of others, with Sieland performing Dreyman’s words in the play, and Wiesler writing down the words spoken by Dreyman at home. Wiesler comes to be summarized by the word he repeats in the opening lecture: ‘Ruhe! Ruhe!’ (5.18). It is after all ultimately his lack of words that saves Dreyman; it is precisely what he does not say that matters. Visually too Sieland and Wiesler become intertwined. In the dancing scene after the play, the first time we encounter Sieland as ‘herself’, off stage, she is wearing a slate grey silk dress, a grey that becomes associated with Wiesler through his clothing and environment, although here it is an emphatically and typically more sensuous manifestation [Figure 4]. Furthermore, when Sieland returns from her first sexual encounter with Hempf, who grotesquely forces himself on her, she showers and crumples to the floor, stands before the mirror in her white fluffy dressing gown and then lies on the bed curled up in the foetal position, retreating from the trauma she has just undergone. Dreyman cradles her in his arms and the two fall asleep. The camera cuts to Wiesler in the attic who is asleep curled around a chair in the foetal position, but notably surrounded by the ubiquitous grey loneliness of the attic walls. Koepnick notes that Wiesler clutches his headphones here like an umbilical cord and, in his view, ‘Wiesler emulates Dreyman’s pose of mute comfort, that Dreyman here seems to serve as a direct extension of Wiesler’s organs and senses’.23 Daniela Berghahn, furthermore, observes the visual similarity in the scene that ‘shows Dreyman hiding next to the front door of the apartment building as Christa-Maria enters while, later on, Wiesler is hiding in the very same place when Dreyman enters’.24 Berghahn notes too that ‘only Wiesler – and, ironically, also Dreyman, the victim of Stasi surveillance – firmly believe in socialism’, but both men eventually ‘become disillusioned with the regime they used to support’.25 I would suggest, however, that the crucial affinity constructed here exists not between Wiesler and Dreyman, but rather between Wiesler and Sieland (even their names with the assonance on the ‘ie’ sound, the sibilant ‘s’ repetition, and the alliterative ‘l’ form aural echoes and subtle inversions). The link between Sieland in the foetal position and Wiesler clutching the umbilical cord is self-evident, and what happens next confirms this connection. Wiesler returns home, and washes his face in front of the mirror before a prostitute arrives with whom he has dispassionate sex. What Timothy Garton Ash unsympathetically refers to as the prostitute’s ‘outsize mutton thighs’ and ageing skin recall Hempf’s oversized, ageing bottom as he pulled down his trousers in the car.26 Wiesler thus enacts the same series of actions just performed by Christa-Maria but in reverse: dispassionate sex – washing and self-reflection – sleeping in the foetal position become sleeping in the foetal position – washing and self-reflection – dispassionate sex. Here the visual parallels constructed between the two characters’ experiences act as another subtle instance of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’, where we are given additional insight into their subjectivities through the careful construction of the camera angles and the mise-en-scène in this series of scenes. Where Sieland crumples down in the shower, disappearing from view, Wiesler rises up at the sink (erotically telling and symbolic of his ‘re-birth’ perhaps?). As Rinke observes, furthermore, ‘in this sequence the non-diegetic musical score functions as a sound bridge linking the feelings of Sieland (in the shower) with those of Wiesler eavesdropping in the attic above’.27 The shot separating these two series is of a roundabout in the middle of the night, in which the symbolism of turning and changing directions is all too evident [Figure 8]. Figure 8: View largeDownload slide The turning point? Figure 8: View largeDownload slide The turning point? Furthermore, where Wiesler is not only the ‘Schild und Schwert der Partei’ as per the Stasi motto, but also acts as a metonym for and personification of the ears of the GDR, Sieland concomitantly forms the eyes, ultimately also betraying Dreyman on the basis of what she has seen (the hiding place of the typewriter), not of what she has heard; Wiesler did not know the hiding place on the basis of his heard knowledge. In Dreyman’s play, in which we see Sieland perform at the start of the film, her character is that of a ‘Seherin’, a woman reluctantly afflicted with the power of prophecy, or sight into the future. As she plays this role, she looks directly at the camera, the point of view of which is at this moment that of the intradiegetic theatre audience, so the film audience and the theatre audience coincide. Sieland is the only character in the film ever to look directly into the camera (others look towards it but slightly past it, with a subtly alienating effect), and she does so repeatedly: when talking with Dreyman before his birthday party, when attempting to seduce Grubitz during her interrogation, and then again when Wiesler is compelled to interrogate her. The camera, into whose ‘eyes’ she looks, therefore moves through the perspectives of the theatre audience, Dreyman, Grubitz and Wiesler, and in each case the shot into Sieland’s eyes adds a feeling of intimacy. There is one moment when her symbolic power of sight falters, however: namely when she has an assignation with Hempf, and Dreyman begs her not to go. She leaves anyway, and a dispirited Wiesler, by this point sympathetic to the couple, goes to a nearby ‘Kneipe’. Sieland enters, late at night, in the dark, yet inexplicably sporting a pair of sunglasses. When Wiesler approaches her and tells her that she is loved and appreciated, Sieland falters and says she has to go, repeating the lie she has just recited to Dreyman: ‘Ich treffe eine alte Klassenkameradin’ (1.04.34). Wiesler responds: ‘Sehen Sie? Da waren Sie gerade gar nicht Sie selbst’ (1.04.42). He poses this question, ‘Sehen Sie? ’, and she responds by removing her dark glasses – literal and metaphorical – and, we subsequently learn, returning faithfully to Dreyman, thus demonstrating the restoration of her metaphorical sight; she once again ‘sees’ clearly. Sieland acts as a mirror for the audience, and we repeatedly see her stand before mirrors too. We look into her eyes, she almost breaks the fourth wall by looking back at us, and part of her tragedy lies in the orchestrated sense that ‘that might have been us’. The theme of martyrdom and redemption further links the psychic and somatic in both of these works. Kafka critics have suggested that Gregor Samsa’s death may have religious ramifications, with Breen proposing that not only the title’s connotations of transubstantiation but also the final ‘self-sacrifice for the good of his family’ create comparisons with Christ, and Eggenschwiler, for example, observing that when Gregor is wounded by his father’s Eden/Oedipal attack he is ‘made to feel nailed (“festgenagelt”) to the spot (perhaps making him Christ as well as Adam in this biblical collage)’.28 Similarly in Das Leben der Anderen, Christa-Maria Sieland, with the explicitly Christian connotations of her name, dies poetically with her arms outstretched in the shape of a crucifix or more specifically, as several critics have noted, the Pietà pose.29 But it is in fact more Wiesler who is the martyr of this story; he is the one who sacrifices his career and effectively risks his life in protecting Dreyman – we are repeatedly reminded of the kind of fate that might have awaited Wiesler in Hohenschönhausen if Grubitz had had concrete proof of his disloyalty rather than just circumstantial presumption. Sieland, like so many others in the film, is simply trying to protect herself (not an ignoble thing to do, as the film suggests). Like her character in Dreyman’s play, who has the unfortunate power of prophecy, Sieland sees her own professional demise in that of the blacklisted director, Jerska, and simply seeks too to avoid his fate of an actual demise (although ironically suicide is eventually also her release). Christa-Maria Sieland, like Gregor Samsa, demonstrates the shift from linguistic agent to sensuous self, and the emphasis on the body subtly anticipates her move from innocent to informer. In terms of the links between Sieland and Wiesler, this film is as much about the monsterization of an innocent human – turning from lover to human bug (as an ‘Inoffizielle Mitarbeiterin’) – as it is about the humanization of a perpetrator. Although the analysis of sensuality further illustrates the striking similarities in terms of storylines of these two works, it also highlights a major point of divergence in terms of emplotment. Von Donnersmarck’s tale of transformation effectively splits one role into two, creating a multi-directional transformation from a moral monster into an empathetic human being and back again simultaneously. The distinction between the Wiesler/Sieland multi-directional transformation and the solitary, wretched figure of Gregor Samsa’s metamorphosis is one of the most significant reasons, I would argue, for the distinction in morale and moral of the story by the end of both works. Spectator complicity: the viewer versus the bystander The presentations of space and sensual experience in these two works draw obvious attention to the physical experiences of the characters; these are insights into the sensations of others to which we do not normally have access in real life. With this emphasis on the physical experiences (which both influence and reflect the psychological changes) comes a mirror that reflects on us, the audience. Both of these works explore the psychological transformations of characters through the presentations of their changing environments and their reactions to the lives of those around them. But in many ways, we as readers and viewers are placed in the same position as Wiesler and Gregor; that is, we too are eavesdropping, we are also voyeurs, we are also sitting in the audience watching the lives of others unfold before us. The shifting focalization in both Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen forces us into a position of complicity. We effectively wake up with Gregor, learning of his physical changes in step with him. We hear his family and his superior from the office talking outside but we – like Gregor – do not see them. We hear Gregor speak, clearly and comprehensibly, before realizing that those beyond the door hear only a terrifying hissing sound. We are essentially on his side of the wall. This does not, however, last. And with the waning of focalized attention given to Gregor comes a waning of reader empathy. As Gregor is tempted from his room to hear the seductive tones of his sister’s violin playing, we are also lured from our confinement. This glimpse of escape adds to the sense of claustrophobic entrapment and marks a turning point for the reader. Eggenschwiler suggests that, until Gregor's death, the narrator’s physical (if not always intellectual) point of view is limited to Gregor’s, we need that open door so that we can observe the other Samsas for the first time as they deal with and endure the world in which they have become the main actors.30 Here, however, I detail the ways in which a perspectival shift is evident in terms of subtle inflections of language as Gregor leaves the room. In effect, we never quite re-join him fully in his bedroom, but instead remain partly outside with the family. Grete’s violin playing marks a watershed in the narrative. As Gregor is tempted from his room by the sound of the music and is overcome with the fantasy of bringing Grete back into his room and keeping her like a creature, just as he has been kept, the narrative perspective loses its resolute prioritization of Gregor. Instead we drift ever more onto the side of the family. After the outraged lodgers have given their notice, Grete instigates a family conference. Here, the narrator indicates insight into Grete’s private thoughts and intentions, while showing Gregor to be uncomprehending. Gregor’s father asks: ‘Was sollen wir aber tun?’ to which Grete responds simply with a gesture: ‘Die Schwester zuckte nur die Achseln zum Zeichen der Ratlosigkeit, die sie nun während des Weinens im Gegensatz zu ihrer früheren Sicherheit ergriffen hatte’ (my emphasis, 190). Their father continues questioningly: ‘Wenn er uns verstünde,’ and in response, ‘die Schwester schüttelte aus dem Weinen heraus heftig die Hand zum Zeichen, daß daran nicht zu denken sei’ (my emphasis, 190). The repetition of ‘zum Zeichen’ draws our attention to the fact that Grete’s intention – not the appearance of intention – is known to the narrator. Furthermore, after Grete’s increasingly anxious plea, the narrator observes: ‘Und in einem für Gregor gänzlich unverständlichen Schrecken verließ die Schwester sogar die Mutter, stieß sich förmlich von ihrem Sessel ab, als wollte sie lieber die Mutter opfern als in Gregors Nähe bleiben’ (191). Here, the focalization tacitly shifts back to Gregor, who finds Grete’s actions completely incomprehensible, and has to read meaning in her gestures as suggested by the conditional ‘als ob’ clause. As the violin music draws Gregor from his room, the narrative voice begins to oscillate, the focalization shifts; we are beyond the walls and with the family. In the closing lines of the story, we join their final escape: Dann verließen alle drei gemeinschaftlich die Wohnung, was sie schon seit Monaten nicht getan hatten, und fuhren mit der Elektrischen ins Freie vor die Stadt. Der Wagen, in dem sie allein saßen, war ganz von warmer Sonne durchschienen. Sie besprachen, bequem auf ihren Sitzen zurückgelehnt, die Aussichten für die Zukunft. (199) Now the stress placed on physical sensation – the warmth, the light, the comfort – is that of Gregor’s family. We now feel in step with them. Indeed, at this juncture Gregor’s parents note a change not in their son but in their daughter: Während sie sich so unterhielten, fiel es Herrn und Frau Samsa im Anblick ihrer immer lebhafter werdenden Tochter fast gleichzeitig ein, wie sie in der letzten Zeit trotz aller Plage, die ihre Wangen bleich gemacht hatte, zu einem schönen und üppigen Mädchen aufgeblüht war. (200) This, then, means that the story ends on the transformation of Gregor’s sister rather than of Gregor himself as though that was the ‘Verwandlung’ of the title. Like the alliterative and assonant links between Wiesler and Sieland, Gregor and Grete’s names also aurally intertwine. Where Gregor – who once felt such pride, ‘daß er seinen Eltern und seiner Schwester ein solches Leben in einer so schönen Wohnung hatte verschaffen können’ (144) – has now become synonymous with the apartment, his family wish simply to rid themselves of it and all that goes with it: ‘Die größte augenblickliche Besserung der Lage mußte sich natürlich leicht durch einen Wohnungswechsel ergeben’ (200). The parental plans, however, to find a suitable husband for Grete indicate not simply a transformation, but a kind of circularity: the thought exists now that their son will be replaced with a son-in-law and the cycle will begin again. This adds a sinister note to the potentially saccharine image of familial resolution reached by the end. In Das Leben der Anderen a similar pattern of focalization seemingly places the viewer in a morally dubious position, but ultimately this position crumbles. Even in simplistic terms, again we join the story with Wiesler as our guide in the opening interrogation and lecture scene. On one level, it might appear that the viewer is just another ignorant member of the audience, learning from the experienced Stasi Captain like the other trainees. But then as the camera shifts to Wiesler’s point of view and we see him put a mark against the student’s name for challenging his moral authority, we see what only he is able to see. We are both behind the desk on stage with Wiesler and in the audience learning with the students. The man’s moralistic question speaks also of the voice of hindsight of the cinema audience; it is a challenge with which we are led to sympathise. But in the theatre at Dreyman’s play, Wiesler’s colleague and superior, Anton Grubitz, is used as a foil to force us into more empathy – or perhaps simply complicity – with Wiesler. Not only do we see little of the play ourselves (only a series of brief montages as though reflecting Wiesler’s own partial concentration – a kind of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ through temporal elision), but we also witness Grubitz’s duplicity at Wiesler’s expense. Wiesler suggests to Grubitz that they should place Dreyman under surveillance, an idea which Grubitz is quick to ridicule. The latter then joins Minister Hempf in the lower circle of the audience and – reacting to Hempf’s subtext – he repeats Wiesler’s idea but claims it as his own, and thus gains Hempf’s congratulatory approval. For all of our moral doubts about Wiesler’s political and professional position, in contrast to Grubitz and Hempf he is shown to be less opportunistic and personally motivated, but instead led by staunch convictions. Wiesler’s surveillance then leads us into the life of Dreyman. We witness the bugging operation of Dreyman’s flat, and then join him in the attic. But where Wiesler can only hear what is going on in the flat, we frequently enter it and move around with Dreyman, Sieland and their friends. Indeed, when Dreyman’s friend Paul Hauser hatches a plan to check whether or not Dreyman’s flat is bugged, we are able to read their written conversation in Hauser’s flat and we join them in the Stasi-free safety of the park to discuss this plan. We therefore gain increasing knowledge that goes beyond the reach of Wiesler. So the focalization gradually abandons Wiesler and shifts ever more to Dreyman. This shift in character knowledge and thus audience perspective occurs – as in Die Verwandlung – through music. In this instance, however, we too are able to hear the music rather than simply read its evocation in words. Just as with the visual evocation of space, our empathetic experience as physical viewers in the cinema is more immediately on a par with the characters than that of our hearsay, distanced experience as readers of literature. Where Gregor in Kafka’s story is enticed from his room by Grete’s violin playing, which marks a subtle change in narrative focalization, Wiesler in von Donnersmarck’s film is tempted out of his cold, inhuman Stasi ways by Dreyman’s piano playing. Hauser rings Dreyman to tell him the news that their friend Albert Jerska, an eminent theatre director blacklisted for his outspoken comments against the regime, has hanged himself. In his grief, Dreyman picks up the score of the piano sonata recently given to him by Jerska, and begins to play. Sieland stands behind Dreyman and the camera begins to spin around them before cutting to Wiesler in the attic, with his own tears of grief pouring down his cheeks, and the camera continues to revolve, thus effectively encircling Wiesler, Dreyman and Sieland and thereby indicating the emotional union they are beginning to form. This is a stark instance of the ‘polyphonic perspective’ observed by Hedges, Ghaffary and Nojoumian, discussed above. Such a split is far harder to achieve or indeed to identify in the third-person narration of Die Verwandlung that relies heavily on erlebte Rede to give voice to Gregor’s inner life in moments of seemingly omniscient narration. The question that Gregor asks himself in Die Verwandlung when he hears his sister’s music, ‘War er ein Tier, da ihn Musik so ergriff?’ (185), is echoed by Dreyman, who asks, ‘Kann jemand, der diese Musik gehört hat, ich meine wirklich gehört hat, noch ein schlechter Mensch sein?’ (54.36) Although this is commonly considered to be the major turning point of the film, I would argue that this moment primarily marks a shift in focalization (and that the roundabout scene, discussed above, actually represents the major turning point).31 At this juncture, the perspective shifts, and so in this respect the moment is of more obvious importance for the audience. When Dreyman and Hauser’s uncle then discuss their fake plan to smuggle Hauser out of the East (in an effort to verify whether or not Dreyman’s apartment has been bugged), the tables of dramatic irony are momentarily turned as Wiesler – unlike the audience – remains entirely ignorant of the plan’s real point. At the end of the film Dreyman goes to the Stasi archives, having learned from Hempf about the existence of the extensive surveillance he had been under, to read the reports written by HGW XX/7 (Wiesler’s officer code), and discovers that the Stasi ‘facts’ about his life are largely fiction, thanks to the life-saving efforts of Wiesler. In the final scene, we see Wiesler – now a lonely leaflet delivery man (his surroundings are still grey but now outside and open, and he is dwarfed in them showing the sympathetic subjective space of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ once more) – noticing Dreyman’s new book in a bookshop and, upon opening it, discovering that it is dedicated to him. This gives a retroactive gloss to the narrative: perhaps the tale we witnessed on screen was the story of Dreyman’s book rather than that of Wiesler’s reports. Or perhaps it started as a Stasi report and ended as a redemptive book, thus suggesting a narrative transformation. In both Das Leben der Anderen and Die Verwandlung, we as the audience begin by sharing the perspectives of the principal protagonists. But by the end, the narrative position has shifted, and this narrative position dictates the overall tone of each work. By the end of Die Verwandlung, we – like Gregor’s family – may have heartlessly abandoned him because we are also being stifled by the claustrophobic atmosphere. We, the readers, are essentially akin to the family’s maid who scurries away, appalled and confused, swearing secrecy but grateful to escape. And in Das Leben der Anderen, we are much like Dreyman’s neighbour, swearing secrecy, but filled with silent misgivings and ultimately feeling incapable of action or resistance. But in the case of the film, we lose our insight into Wiesler’s world as he is transformed from the representative of the ‘unmenschlich[en]’ Stasi techniques at the start to being a ‘gute[r] Mensch’ at the end, whereas in Kafka’s story we abandon Gregor as he declines ever deeper into his helpless, fragile non-existence. In both works, the audience does what the morally dubious characters do themselves: we spy on the lives of others in von Donnersmarck’s film and we abandon the vulnerable in Kafka’s story. These narratives are not simply about other people, but both also act as mirrors held up to the audience. Conclusion In terms of the storylines, both Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen depict transformations, not just of one person in each case but of multiple characters. In both instances, the main characters find a correlative in another character, so that while one person declines, the other blossoms. Gregor’s temporal mirror image can be found in his sister Grete: while he dissolves into nothing, she becomes a woman full of possibility and life. For Wiesler in von Donnersmarck’s film, his temporal mirror image exists in Sieland, and as he develops morally, she is mauled by Stasi parasites and then pitilessly crushed in multiple senses. So what is the difference between these works? Why might the reader experience a sense of relief in escaping Gregor’s lair and yet an empty despondency at this escape at the end of Kafka’s tale, and conversely why are so many critics and viewers (even reluctantly) moved and filled with a renewed joy and hope for humanity at the end of von Donnersmarck’s film? Such crucial differences in reactions, morale and moods are, I suggest, fundamentally questions of emplotment rather than story. Gregor wakes up as an insect, but we essentially know him first as a human being: we hear his thoughts and words, speak his language, need to become accustomed to his changes as he learns about them himself. In Wiesler’s case, we see him first of all as ‘unmenschlich’, as a master manipulator with particular prowess in psychological torture, and then we watch him learn empathy, emotion and compassion. The reader feels Gregor’s linguistic loss because his perspective is prioritized at the start and abandoned at the end. The viewer senses Wiesler’s emotional development because we are forced to be in the interrogation room with him at the start and are able to exit the stuffy attic with him as the surveillance operation is dismantled at the end. Had von Donnersmarck told the story from Christa-Maria Sieland’s perspective – she after all also listens to Dreyman play the ‘Sonate vom guten Menschen’, but to her it speaks as a warning of a professional and actual death rather than as a redemptive sign of hope for humanity – then the film might have ended with a sense of the hollow despondency that Kafka elicits. These works tell essentially the same tale from different perspectives and, although they focus to a surprisingly similar degree on dissipation of spatial boundaries, sensuous experience and the moral complicity of viewers, the contrast in media greatly influences the contrast in effect: the evocation of space and sensation in the film is more immediate and often less subtle; in Kafka’s story, Gregor’s perspective is sometimes only made palpable through a subtle inflection of language, which colours the way in which we read the tale. Both works make use of a kind of ‘free indirect discourse’, but the difference between Kafka’s erlebte Rede and what I have termed erlebtes Zeigen in von Donnermarck’s film is that the latter does not change the story itself, or colour the way we read it, but instead adds to the depth of character and mood. Such a notion may be more generally applicable in terms of the distinction between literature and film. Since the narratorial voice (and any perspective it adopts) in literature is responsible for the progression of the story, this unavoidably impacts on how we view the story at any given moment. But the non-linguistic nature of erlebtes Zeigen does not necessarily do the same. Both Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen are essentially about everyday humanity and everyday inhumanity, but Kafka leaves us with the sense that humans are complex conglomerations of both and that our own relief as readers is a symptom of our own combination of humanity and inhumanity; von Donnersmarck suggests, however, that we all have the potential to be redeemed, thus shedding much of the complexity of Kafka’s tale. Die Verwandlung is painfully prophetic of the dehumanization that history soon brought and will no doubt periodically continue to bring, while Das Leben der Anderen is comfortably retrospective in using modern-day Western morals to condemn a regime that relied (as do all regimes) on ordinary human beings rather than mythical monsters. Ironically perhaps, it is Die Verwandlung that forces us to interrogate our attitudes to the lives of others, while Das Leben der Anderen simply calls for a straightforward (and arguably implausible) transformation. Footnotes 1 Aristotle, Poetics, trans. by Malcolm Heath (London: Penguin, 1996), pp. 13–14. 2 All future citations to the film will be in this form (as in minute and second, or hour, minute and second.) 3 Franz Kafka, ‘Die Verwandlung’, in Drucke zu Lebzeiten, ed. by Wolf Kittler, Hans-Gerd Koch and Gerhard Neumann (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Verlag, 1994), pp. 115–200 (p. 185); all future references are to this edition. 4 Owen Evans, ‘Redeeming the Demon? The Legacy of the Stasi in Das Leben der Anderen’, Memory Studies, 3.2 (2010), 164–77 (p. 174). 5 Das Leben der Anderen has thus far received little attention as a filmic piece of art rather than as a representation of the GDR; the following have been more aesthetically analytical in approach, and this article seeks to further this debate: Daniela Berghahn, ‘Remembering the Stasi in a Fairy Tale of Redemption: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Das Leben der Anderen’, Oxford German Studies, 38.2 (2009), 321–33; Paul Cooke, The Lives of Others and Contemporary German Film (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013); Evans, ‘Redeeming the Demon?'. 6 This also raises an interesting aspect of the contrast between literature and film. Gilles Deleuze discusses the shift from early to later cinema where the role of the viewer changes, but all cinema allows the audience to partake of visual and aural experience in a way not afforded by literature: Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (London: Continuum, 2005). 7 Franz Kafka, Briefe April 1914–1917, ed. by Hans-Gerd Koch (Frankfurt a.M: Fischer Verlag, 2005), p. 145. 8 Mohammad Ghaffary and Amir Ali Nojoumian, ‘A Poetics of Free Indirect Discourse in Narrative Film’, Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 5.2 (2013), 269–81 (p. 274). 9 Inez Hedges calls this the ‘arranger’: ‘Form and Meaning in the French Film, II: Narration and Point of View’, The French Review, 54.2 (1980), 288–98 (p. 289). 10 Emily Troscianko, Kafka’s Cognitive Realism (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 4; Ritchie Robertson, ‘Reading the Clues: Kafka, “Der Proceß” ’, in The German Novel in the Twentieth Century: Beyond Realism, ed. by David Midgley (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993), pp. 59–79 (p. 60). 11 Peter-André Alt, Kafka und der Film: Über kinematographisches Erzählen (Munich: Beck, 2009), p. 7; Kafka, Briefe April 1914–1917, p. 145. 12 Evelyn Finger, ‘Die Bekehrung. “Das Leben der Anderen”: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck setzt mit seinem Film über die DDR Maßstäbe’, Die Zeit, 26 February 2007. 13 Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, ‘Seeing a Film Before You Make It’, in ‘The Lives of Others’ and Contemporary German Film, ed. by Paul Cooke (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), pp. 19–36 (pp. 32–33) (his emphasis). 14 Lutz Koepnick, ‘The Sounds of Others’, in The Lives of Others, ed. by Paul Cooke, pp. 179–97; Cheryl Dueck, ‘The Humanization of the Stasi in “Das Leben Der Anderen” ’, German Studies Review, 31.3 (2008), 599–609. 15 David Eggenschwiler, ‘ “Die Verwandlung,” Freud, and the Chains of Odysseus’, in Critical Insights: Metamorphosis, ed. by James Whitlark (Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2012), pp. 166–94 (pp. 170–71). 16 Peter B. Waldeck, ‘Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung” and “Ein Hungerkünstler” as Influenced by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’, Monatshefte, 64 (1972), 147–52; Elizabeth Boa, Kafka: Gender, Class, and Race in the Letters and Fictions (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 128. 17 Loss of sight was also associated with masturbation in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century medical discourse. 18 Anniken Greve, ‘The Human Body and the Human Being in “Die Verwandlung” ’, in Franz Kafka: Narration, Rhetoric, and Reading, ed. by Jakob Lothe, Beatrice Sandberg and Ronald Speirs (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2011), pp. 40–57 (p. 54). 19 Kimberly Sparks, ‘Drei schwarze Kaninchen: zu einer Deutung der Zimmerherren in Kafkas “Die Verwandlung” ’, Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie, 84 (1965), 73–82 (p. 78). 20 Stanley Corngold, The Commentators’ Despair: The Interpretation of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1973), p. 11. 21 Andrea Rinke, ‘Fear and (Self-)Loathing in East Berlin: Gender and Melodrama in The Lives of Others’, in The Lives of Others, ed. by Cooke, pp. 101–19 (p. 106). 22 Gary Schmidt, ‘Between Authors and Agents: Gender and Affirmative Culture in Das Leben der Anderen’, The German Quarterly, 82.2 (2009), 231–49 (p. 233). 23 Koepnick, ‘The Sounds of Others’, pp. 184–85. 24 Berghahn, ‘Remembering the Stasi’, p. 327. 25 Ibid., pp. 327–29. 26 Timothy Garton Ash, The New York Review, 31 May 2007 <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/may/31/the-stasi-on-our-minds/> [accessed 15 July 2016]. 27 Rinke, ‘Fear and (Self-)Loathing in East Berlin', p. 114. 28 Margaret Sönser Breen, ‘Reading for Constructions of the Unspeakable in Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” ’, in Critical Insights: Metamorphosis, ed. by James Whitlark (Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2012), pp. 119–32 (pp. 128–29); Eggenschwiler, ‘ “Die Verwandlung,” Freud, and the Chains of Odysseus’, p. 176. 29 See for example: Dueck, ‘The Humanization of the Stasi’, p. 603; Berghahn, ‘Remembering the Stasi’, p. 331; Rinke, ‘Fear and (Self-)Loathing in East Berlin, p. 118. 30 Eggenschwiler, ‘ “Die Verwandlung,” Freud, and the Chains of Odysseus’, p. 179. 31 See, for example, Berghahn, ‘Remembering the Stasi’, p. 329. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press for the Court of the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved. The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No. SC013532. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Forum for Modern Language Studies Oxford University Press

The Transformation of the Lives of Others: Space, Sensuality and Spectator Complicity in Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and von Donnersmarck’s Das Leben der Anderen

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press for the Court of the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved. The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No. SC013532.
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0015-8518
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1471-6860
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10.1093/fmls/cqx086
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Abstract

ABSTRACT This article reads von Donnersmarck’s film Das Leben der Anderen in the light of Kafka’s story Die Verwandlung, suggesting that the works bear a striking and as yet unnoticed similarity on the level of story, while diverging significantly in terms of plot. The aim of the comparison is to explore notable aspects of this similarity through the presentations of space, sensual experience and spectator complicity, while raising wider points about the functions and capabilities of different media. I propose the concept of erlebtes Zeigen in my reading of Das Leben der Anderen as a contrast to Kafka’s use of erlebte Rede. I question just how it is that such a similar story may be told to such different effect. The point of this comparison is to undertake a new reading of Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s 2006 film Das Leben der Anderen in the light of Franz Kafka’s Die Verwandlung (first published in 1915) and in so doing to explore some more general issues about the difference between story and plot. Although Das Leben der Anderen seemingly has little in common with Die Verwandlung, my reading proposes that they in fact tell the same story. They do so, however, in different ways, from different perspectives and, consequently, with starkly different tones and resolutions. Their comparison therefore enables an exploration of one of the fundamental aspects of narrative analysis, namely the distinction between what actually happens and how it is organized in narrative. Since Aristotle’s Poetics, emplotting stories has been viewed as a way of making sense of the apparent randomness of everyday life. The imposition of plots, moulding a story into a beginning, middle and end, which Aristotle says is necessary for completeness, is what distinguishes narrative from reality.1 But what the comparison of Kafka and von Donnersmarck illustrates is that narrative has more than just an organizing function; it also shapes the way the audience may interpret the events of life. Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen present tales of transformation: one from man to monster, the other from someone morally ‘unmenschlich’ into ‘ein[en] guten Mensch’ (3.14; 1.05.40).2 The protagonists face potential reckonings through the transformative power of music: Kafka’s Gregor listens to his sister playing the violin and questions ‘War er ein Tier, da ihn Musik so ergriff?’, while in von Donnersmarck’s film Stasi Captain Wiesler overhears Dreyman playing the piano and then Dreyman asks, ‘Kann jemand, der diese Musik gehört hat, ich meine wirklich gehört hat, noch ein schlechter Mensch sein?’ (54.36).3 Art uncovers humanity. Except that is not the full story because Gregor is then shooed back into his lonely room and experiences a miserable death, while Wiesler undergoes a Saul/Paul metamorphosis, what Owen Evans calls his ‘Damascene conversion’, and ultimately redeems himself.4 These works thus tell similar stories but in reverse, and one leaves us with a profound sense of despondency while the other offers a glimmer of hope. This, I argue, is due to more than simply the reversed narrative directions. Both works are about enclosure and exposure, surveillance and moral complicity, bodies and souls. It is therefore in the light of the themes of space, sensuality and spectator complicity that I undertake the analysis of how such different works can in fact be so similar, or indeed vice versa. This comparison and mode of analysis engender new readings of both works.5 I also propose the concept of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ to suggest a visual equivalent of ‘erlebte Rede’, whereby the cinematic or theatrical space may be subtly inflected with the character’s tacit mood and feelings. Space as viewer, space as self Both Das Leben der Anderen and Die Verwandlung depict spaces of enclosure and spaces of spectatorship. These spaces are simultaneously stifling and exposing. But the differences in the form of their depictions are instructive in the wider discussion about story and plot, and intermediality. Because the lines between the characters and their spaces become obfuscated (both retreat into darkness to watch the lives of others – a situation akin to that of the cinema audience), and there is an emphasis placed on physical, tactile, sensual experience, our sense of affinity with and empathy for the characters heightens, while our location blurs with theirs.6 Both Gregor and Wiesler retreat from the centre stage into the shadows of the audience stalls. Gregor shifts from his successful Oedipal development, being the family breadwinner and slowly climbing the career ladder, to being financially, socially and physically impotent. This marks a symbolic rather than a physical withdrawal from the centre stage. But even when his sister enters the room to deliver or to clear food, he retreats as far as possible under the sofa so as to avoid being seen. Wiesler, at the start of the film, is similarly presented as located in the proverbial and literal limelight. The lecture room in which he performs to trainee Stasi officers is light and airy; Wiesler stands in the middle of the stage at the front of the auditorium. But then as a man in the audience asks a morally defiant question (‘Warum müssen Sie ihn so lange wach halten? Ich meine … das ist doch unmenschlich’, 3.14), and Wiesler places a black mark next to the man’s name on a sheet of paper in front of him, we are reminded that he is not simply a performer but simultaneously remains part of the audience, incessantly scrutinizing and acting on those around him. When the theatricality of this scene is echoed in the performance of Dreyman’s play, Wiesler is now situated in the wings of the theatre, complete with opera glasses, through which he watches members of the audience rather than the play itself. This dictates the general theatrical topography of Wiesler’s place in the story, much like Gregor’s shift in family significance. Where Wiesler’s opening lecture theatre is light and central, the surveillance attic is dark, marginal and hidden. Wiesler and Gregor ultimately become commensurate with the spaces they inhabit, and the differences in form bring us back to the central question of story and plot. The protagonists’ locations act as mirrors to their inner worlds and symbolic objectifications of their beings. On a visual level, this quickly becomes obvious in Das Leben der Anderen, where Wiesler’s ubiquitous grey clothing blends chameleon-like into the slate grey walls of the attic. The geometric lines of his zip and pockets, and the triangular shapes on his jacket find a visual echo in the sharp lines of the apartment layout, which he draws in chalk on the floor of the attic; the narrow lines on the corduroy material are repeated in the narrow lines of the attic plan partitions, and even the diagonal beams of the attic roof are at the same angle as his diagonal pockets [Figures 1, 2 and 3]. When we return with Wiesler to his own apartment, the camera slowly pans the room offering an insight into Wiesler’s own domestic space, a space that should define him. However, the neat, functional but unhomely room speaks instead of lack, of what is not there. Its subdued, cool colours are in stark contrast to the warm glow constantly pervading Dreyman’s apartment, and the black and white television set broadcasting GDR propaganda is a poor substitute for real human noise, colour and feeling. He seems more at home in the attic with his vicarious life lived through the walls. Figure 1: View largeDownload slide The fine lines of corduroy Figure 1: View largeDownload slide The fine lines of corduroy Figure 2: View largeDownload slide Drawing the space as a self-portrait: fine lines and triangles Figure 2: View largeDownload slide Drawing the space as a self-portrait: fine lines and triangles Figure 3: View largeDownload slide Jacket triangles lining up with attic beams Figure 3: View largeDownload slide Jacket triangles lining up with attic beams In Die Verwandlung, Gregor’s changes are also mirrored in the changes to his room, and indeed in a letter to his publisher on 25 October 1915, Kafka stipulated that ‘das Insekt’ must never be depicted, but instead the cover illustration could be either ‘die Eltern und der Prokurist vor der geschlossenen Tür oder noch besser die Eltern und die Schwester im beleuchteten Zimmer, während die Tür zum ganz finsteren Nebenzimmer offensteht’.7 Gregor, via erlebte Rede, even uses the word ‘verwandeln’ to describe the transformation of his comfortable, familiar room into an animalistic, lonely cave, which inevitably recalls the ‘Verwandlung’ of the title (162). His family soon see him as synonymous with the room, and after his sister has cleared the food while their parents wait outside, ‘mußte sie ganz genau erzählen, wie es in dem Zimmer aussah, was Gregor gegessen hatte, wie er sich diesmal benommen hatte’ (158). The appearance of the room is given priority over the disappearance of the food, which in turn comes before Gregor’s own behaviour. The room and the food therefore appear to tell them more than Gregor himself. At the start of his new life, by listening to and watching the space around him rather than the people in it, Gregor notices a change in his family: Im Wohnzimmer war, wie Gregor durch die Türspalte sah, das Gas angezündet, aber während sonst zu dieser Tageszeit der Vater seine nachmittags erscheinende Zeitung der Mutter und manchmal auch der Schwester mit erhobener Stimme vorzulesen pflegte, hörte man jetzt keinen Laut. Nun vielleicht war dieses Vorlesen, von dem ihm die Schwester immer erzählte und schrieb, in der letzten Zeit überhaupt aus der Übung gekommen. Aber auch ringsherum war es so still, trotzdem doch gewiß die Wohnung nicht leer war. ‘Was für ein stilles Leben die Familie doch führte’, sagte sich Gregor. (143–44) In the absence of human gestures, Gregor begins to read the gestures of space, where even silence tells him something of human feelings, so the space itself almost comes to life. Gregor learns of the family’s presence by the sight of the lit gas lamp and he knows of their movements because of the sound of hesitant doors opening and rapidly closing. The space begins to speak more while the family fall silent. When Gregor comments to himself that they lead ‘ein stilles Leben’, the phrase conjures still life, in the sense of a painting of static objects as well as in the sense of a quiet life. This accentuates the role reversal between animate, talkative space and still, static, silent inhabitants. The increasing importance of space is symbiotically linked too to the increasing sense of human isolation. Gregor’s increased blurring with his surroundings is constructed from multiple perspectives and on different narrative levels: he describes the stasis of his family in his own words, but the transformation of his room reflects his own subjective perceptions only implicitly via erlebte Rede, and much of this transformation is orchestrated by the actions of his family who remove the furniture, before his sister is then made to recreate the room in narrative for the benefit of her parents waiting outside. In Das Leben der Anderen, the similarity between Wiesler and his surroundings is somewhat different. There are no other characters manoeuvring objects, dimming lights or donning costumes. Rather Wiesler stands alone in the attic that so closely resembles him. When the camera angle [Figure 3] moves to the point of view of Wiesler’s screen (as we almost look back at him watching the screen – a kind of breaking of the fourth wall), the shot is low, so we look slightly up at him and the beams behind him, the angularity of which echoes his stance and the angles of his clothing. This creates what I would call ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ rather than ‘erlebte Rede’; that is, the cinematic narrator subtly reflects the character’s subjective perspective by manipulating camera angles and colour rather than words. Mohammad Ghaffary and Amir Ali Nojoumian have suggested the notion of ‘free indirect discourse’ specifically in narrative film. They suggest that it is generally defined as the ‘polyphonic mixing of the narrator’s and the character-focalizer’s voices’, but they also identify instances of free indirect discourse in ‘those points in the narrative where objectivity and subjectivity […] merge together and the narrative becomes ambiguous from this viewpoint’.8 This is subtly distinct from my notion of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ located, for example, in Wiesler’s surveillance attic. As Wiesler walks through the attic and looks down at the screen showing the outside of Dreyman’s apartment, the perspective does not notably change. The surveillance TV screen emphasizes the presence not only of the dual perspective of character but also of us, the cinema spectators; we watch a screen that shows the character watching a screen.9 All three perspectives are maintained throughout much of the film, but what occurs at this moment is something greater and subtler than the polyphony of perspectives mentioned by Ghaffary and Nojoumian. The angle and the lighting that frame Wiesler and his clothes as part of the space he inhabits do not change our view of what is happening or suggest that a different point of view may have taken over the narration, but they do offer a glimpse into his character and mood, not necessarily aspects of himself of which even he is aware. We may see this kind of subjectivity as distinct from that of a storyteller, for it furthers the depth of character rather than altering our perception of the action. By the end of both the film and the story, the protagonists have become so tightly interwoven with the spaces they inhabit that, as the characters themselves disappear into nothing (Gregor’s death, Wiesler’s professional demise), the spaces too are destroyed. We see Dreyman tearing his apartment apart in search of bugging devices, and the Samsa family elect to leave the space infected by Gregor. The stories follow closely similar lines, but by emplotting spaces in different ways our locations as physical viewer and moral accomplice in both works are ultimately very different. Sensuality: feeling versus seeing, showing versus telling Where the particular depictions of space in Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen diminish the sense of physical separation between the characters and their locations, and by extension also between the audience and the characters, the emphatic evocation of sensory – particularly tactile – experience enhances this effect, increasing our sense of affinity with the characters. As their physical experience comes to the fore, so too do we have a greater insight into their psychological experience. But the unavoidable prioritization of sight and sound in cinema compared to the sensually egalitarian possibilities of literature leads to different evocations of sensory experience in these two works, and thus also contributes to the different perspectives, morals and conclusions of both stories. Kafka’s story of physical transformation involves detailed description of bodily experience and this in part contributes to the sense of what Emily Troscianko calls his performance ‘on the tightrope between the “realistic” and the “unreal-seeming” ’ or, as Ritchie Robertson observes with reference to Der Proceß: ‘the Realist background lends credibility to the fantasy, yet the fantasy exposes the Realism as a flimsy contrivance.’10 Part of this dichotomy lies in the contradiction between Kafka’s almost cinematic style, with his interest in the cinema’s ‘Überwältigungseffekten und rasenden Bildfolgen, seiner Schockästhetik und den Trivialitäten seiner Sujets, mit einzelnen Motiven ebenso wie mit der Dramaturgie seiner Bewegungskunst’, and the impossibility of straightforward visualization in Die Verwandlung, where he specified: ‘Das Insekt selbst kann nicht gezeichnet warden.’11 It is less obvious that sensuous experience would be so strongly evoked in a film about a moral transformation, but part of von Donnersmarck’s aim was to create what Evelyn Finger calls a ‘metaphorische[n] Hyperrealismus’ that conjured the visual essence of the GDR.12 In a lecture at the University of Cambridge in 2008 in the DVD Director’s Commentary, von Donnersmarck says that to convey the essence of the drabness of the GDR he deliberately avoided using bright blue and red in the film, although ‘Of course, they had reds and blues – red was the colour of socialism after all – but the impression was right.’13 Critics have commented on the use of colour and sound in the film; music is at the heart of the plot, and a story about surveillance – the voyeuristic observation and eavesdropping on other people – inevitably prioritises the visual and the aural aspects of sensory perception.14 But far less has been said about the evocation of other forms of sensory experience. One of the starkest points of the comparability in story and yet contrast in plot between Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen lies in the presentation of touch, and this, I would argue, is crucial in terms of plot, character and audience experience. At the beginning of Die Verwandlung, once Gregor has awoken to his new condition, he measures the degree of changes to reality by considering the familiar space around him, namely his bedroom. Rather than dwelling on this space, the narrator leads us to one lone photograph decorating the wall: ‘Es stellte eine Dame dar, die, mit einem Pelzhut und einer Pelzboa versehen, aufrecht dasaß und einen schweren Pelzmuff, in dem ihr ganzer Unterarm verschwunden war, dem Beschauer entgegenhob’ (115–16). Eggenschwiller questions: ‘why does Kafka stylistically mark that passage with the odd comment that the woman’s whole forearm had vanished (“verschwunden war”) into her muff, as though such a disappearance were uncanny rather than commonplace?’15 The animality of this erotic photograph (there is after all more fur visible than skin) suggests that Gregor may have felt a prophetic attraction to the animalistic even before his transformation. The triple repetition of ‘Pelz’ furthermore aurally emphasises the tactility of the image, so the sense of touch is visually evoked in the picture, and then aurally evoked in the sound of the narrator’s words – an effect that is notably distinct from cinematic form, which is led more by images than by words. Later in the story, when Gregor has learnt to crawl on walls, his sister and mother resolve to clear the furniture from his room in an effort to make him more comfortable in his creaturely state. Initially pleased with this prospect, Gregor then questions the idea: Hatte er wirklich Lust, das warme, mit ererbten Möbeln gemütlich ausgestattete Zimmer in eine Höhle verwandeln zu lassen, in der er dann freilich nach allen Richtungen ungestört würde kriechen können, jedoch auch unter gleichzeitigem, schnellen, gänzlichen Vergessen seiner menschlichen Vergangenheit? (162) But despite noting that the room is comfortably furnished with inherited family furniture, and commenting that the women ‘nahmen ihm alles, was ihm lieb war’, while ‘er wußte wirklich nicht, was er zuerst retten sollte’, Gregor fixes on ‘das Bild der in lauter Pelzwerk gekleideten Dame’ as the item most worth saving (164–65). This recent addition to his room, a magazine cut-out of a woman who seems more animal than human, is hardly the representation of the ‘menschliche[n] Vergangenheit’ he wishes to preserve. The way in which he ‘kroch eilends hinauf und preßte sich an das Glas’ is also palpably erotic, and many critics have taken up this thread (165). Peter Waldeck notes the allusion to Leopold Sacher-Masoch’s story Venus in Furs, the hero of which is called Gregor, and Elizabeth Boa suggests that the picture is ‘evocative of the furry animality of the female genitalia’.16 The masturbatory act of Gregor pressing himself against this picture is clear, but an aspect of further sensory note is not only what comes after this act (as discussed by Boa, Breen and Eggenschwiler for example), but also what comes before. This sexual climax is prefaced by a degree of what might be seen as foreplay, one moreover that links sensuality with space in the story. Before mounting the picture, Gregor increasingly indulges his new ability to climb on the ceiling: Besonders oben auf der Decke hing er gern; es war ganz anders, als das Liegen auf dem Fußboden; man atmete freier; ein leichtes Schwingen ging durch den Körper; und in der fast glücklichen Zerstreutheit, in der sich Gregor dort oben befand, konnte es geschehen, daß er zu seiner eigenen Überraschung sich losließ und auf den Boden klatschte. (159) The symbolism of climbing up, getting carried away in the enjoyment of the situation, and prematurely crashing down again until practice has honed the skill, is palpably erotic. Gregor’s mother and sister then strip the room bare (an act which is both infantile and incestuous in the circumstances), before Gregor presses himself against the evocation of female genitalia (as Boa suggests), poised on the wall, half way between ceiling and floor (the room’s ‘head and toes’ as it were), so this becomes the climax of a longer communion with space. This also comes shortly before Gregor notes a change in his father. Where Herr Samsa was previously weak and frail, a man ‘der müde im Bett vergraben lag, wenn früher Gregor zu einer Geschäftsreise ausgerückt war; der ihn an Abenden der Heimkehr im Schlafrock im Lehnstuhl empfangen hatte; gar nicht recht imstand war, aufzustehen, sondern zum Zeichen der Freude nur die Arme gehoben hatte’, he is now ‘recht gut aufgerichtet’ (168–69). Bed here is not a site of eroticism, but is associated with death (with the pun on ‘vergraben’) and sleep (‘Schlafrock’), and the ‘Lehnstuhl’ represents the opposite of his newly erect state. Gregor seems to have regressed to an inexperienced adolescent sexuality, while his father has rediscovered a potency that had seemed lost. When Herr Samsa pelts his son with apples and the latter loses his ‘Sehkraft’, not only the Oedipal punishment for attempting to usurp his father, but also the resurrection of the father himself (typically for Kafka) seem complete.17 In conjunction with his increasing focus on the bodily, and his communion with inanimate objects and spaces rather than with living beings, Gregor also experiences a loss of language. Anniken Greve argues that this linguistic loss is at the heart of the story: the denial of the human condition turns out to be fatal, not least because Gregor is deprived of a comprehensible human language. […] He clearly recognizes the importance of conversation in order to stay human: his attempt at communicating is essentially an attempt at communicating his humanity to them, assuming that the inclusion in the human conversation sustains his inclusion ‘in den menschlichen Kreis’, and he regards his progressively lowered awareness of what is important to him as a human being to be a consequence of his being excluded from the human conversation.18 Kimberly Sparks, moreover, suggests that the newspaper is a symbolic correlative of the home’s power dynamics: ‘Wer oben am Tisch sitzt, hat das Recht, Zeitung zu lesen und die Zeitung selbst ist zeremonielles Gut geworden.’19 Stanley Corngold continues this thread: The person in power at any moment reads or manipulates the newspaper. Gregor has clipped the love object that hangs on his wall from an illustrated newspaper; his evening custom as head of the family had been to sit at the table and read the newspaper. It is a sorry comment on his loss of power and identity within the family that it is on newspaper that his first meal of garbage is served; the father meanwhile, downcast for a while, fails to read the newspaper aloud to the family.20 Gregor has lost both his ability to communicate as well as the symbolic representation of (patriarchal) power in the form of the newspaper, which now exists for him not in linguistic terms (he no longer reads aloud to his family) but only in association with images and tastes (the picture and the food). The loss of language involves the heightened significance of sensory perception, and this is a dehumanizing shift. The imbalance between sensuality and language is echoed in Das Leben der Anderen, and again here it diminishes the distinction between subject and space, and increases the affinity between spectator and character by enhancing the evocation of physical experience. It also raises a crucial point about characterization and plot, creating a link between Wiesler the Stasi Captain and Sieland the actress, which suggests a turning point in the film and acts as one of the most significant distinctions in terms of emplotment between Das Leben der Anderen and Die Verwandlung by creating what I would suggest acts as a split perspective. After attending the performance of a new play written by an outwardly devoted citizen of the GDR, the Stasi Captain Wiesler suggests that the playwright should be placed under surveillance, an operation Wiesler then heads himself. The playwright Georg Dreyman lives with his lover, Christa-Maria Sieland. Sieland apparently represents the antithesis of Wiesler. Where he lives the life of an ascetic, she is defined by her sensuality. She, like Gregor’s eroticized photograph, frequently wears a fur hat, as well as a silk dress, a silk blouse, a fluffy dressing gown, a felt coat, a velvet dress and a fluffy jumper [Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7, for example]. She is repeatedly clothed in emphatically sensuous materials. These items of clothing do not just speak of an exuberance and luxury ill-fitting the traditional image of the GDR, thereby indicating her favoured position among the elite, but they are also crucially visually sensual. Where we witnessed the sensual effect of linguistic repetition in Die Verwandlung’s emphasis on ‘Pelz’, a similar effect is achieved here through visual repetition. Even when simply presented as images on screen, without commentary or having particular attention drawn to them, the fur, the silk and the fluff are nevertheless visually able to evoke the sense of touch for the viewer. This sensuality is, moreover, commensurate with Sieland’s character more generally. She becomes the focus of attention because she is Dreyman’s lover – or perhaps it is the other way around. Minister Hempf wants Dreyman investigated and placed under surveillance in part because he is himself infatuated with Sieland; as Grubitz says, ‘Wir helfen also einen ZK Mitglied seinen Rivalen aus dem Weg zu schaffen’ (36.50). We see Sieland dancing, taking illegal pills, having sex, and showering repeatedly, all of which emphasise her physicality. Figure 4: View largeDownload slide Visually tactile materials: the silk dress Figure 4: View largeDownload slide Visually tactile materials: the silk dress Figure 5: View largeDownload slide The fur hat and felt coat Figure 5: View largeDownload slide The fur hat and felt coat Figure 6: View largeDownload slide The fluffy dressing gown Figure 6: View largeDownload slide The fluffy dressing gown Figure 7: View largeDownload slide Framed by the sheepskin headboard Figure 7: View largeDownload slide Framed by the sheepskin headboard Unlike Dreyman the playwright, Sieland is not defined by her use of words. Her emphatic physicality – like Gregor’s – brings with it a diminished linguistic agency. Repeatedly she remains silent in the face of a barrage of questions: first, while dancing at the party after the play, Dreyman asks Sieland of Hempf: ‘Warum schaut er uns immer so an? Was macht er überhaupt hier? Ich glaube er hat einen Narren an dir gefressen,’ to which she says absolutely nothing but simply smiles (12.25). Again, when in Minister Hempf’s car in a conversation that lasts for almost two minutes before they have sex, Sieland says three words, speaking for just two seconds, but otherwise remains silent (40.45–42.28). At Dreyman’s birthday party, furthermore, where the refrain ‘Ich hatte ausdrücklich gesagt, keine Bücher’ recurs as guests do indeed present Dreyman with books, Sieland instead gives him a tie, saying ‘Du hast doch gesagt, du willst keine Bücher’ (30.23; 34.20; 27.30). She stands for silence and sensuality. The tie not only represents another item of clothing – they discuss its pointless luxury – and a costume for him to play the bourgeois role on his birthday, but in the circumstances it also articulates the absence of words. Indeed, Rinke notes that Martina Gedeck, who plays Sieland, departed from various script cues given by von Donnersmarck, choosing not to beg, cry or panic, as he instructed in some of the most emotionally fraught scenes, but instead showing a much quieter composure.21 Dreyman and Wiesler recognise a psychological change in Sieland, her loss of confidence and increasing self-doubt. But they perceive this not in what she says, but in what she does; the illicit medication and her sexual favours to Hempf – both of which involve the use and abuse of her body – indicate her increasing despondency and desperation. So it appears that Sieland epitomizes the diametric opposite of Wiesler. But through imagery and perspective, the two characters become subtly intertwined, and this is also where a particularly crucial piece of evidence of the emotive power of perspective is to be found. Sieland and Wiesler both act as connections between Dreyman and the Stasi, and although they start on opposite sides of the divide, with Sieland loyal to Dreyman and Wiesler loyal to the Stasi, they eventually swap places. This complicates Gary Schmidt’s observation that ‘the masculine/feminine binarisms constructed in Das Leben der Anderen reinforce traditional gender hierarchies that ascribe to the masculine the qualities of spirit, intellect, and reason […] and to the feminine the qualities associated with materiality and corporality.’22 First, there are linguistic parallels between the two characters. Like Sieland, Wiesler also frequently prefers silence to talking, for example in the face of Grubitz’s opportunistic conversation and inconsequential banter when they have lunch together – a lunch scene that lasts for over four and a half minutes, of which Wiesler speaks for a total of only ten seconds (35.43–40.02). Both are more accustomed to repeating the words of others, with Sieland performing Dreyman’s words in the play, and Wiesler writing down the words spoken by Dreyman at home. Wiesler comes to be summarized by the word he repeats in the opening lecture: ‘Ruhe! Ruhe!’ (5.18). It is after all ultimately his lack of words that saves Dreyman; it is precisely what he does not say that matters. Visually too Sieland and Wiesler become intertwined. In the dancing scene after the play, the first time we encounter Sieland as ‘herself’, off stage, she is wearing a slate grey silk dress, a grey that becomes associated with Wiesler through his clothing and environment, although here it is an emphatically and typically more sensuous manifestation [Figure 4]. Furthermore, when Sieland returns from her first sexual encounter with Hempf, who grotesquely forces himself on her, she showers and crumples to the floor, stands before the mirror in her white fluffy dressing gown and then lies on the bed curled up in the foetal position, retreating from the trauma she has just undergone. Dreyman cradles her in his arms and the two fall asleep. The camera cuts to Wiesler in the attic who is asleep curled around a chair in the foetal position, but notably surrounded by the ubiquitous grey loneliness of the attic walls. Koepnick notes that Wiesler clutches his headphones here like an umbilical cord and, in his view, ‘Wiesler emulates Dreyman’s pose of mute comfort, that Dreyman here seems to serve as a direct extension of Wiesler’s organs and senses’.23 Daniela Berghahn, furthermore, observes the visual similarity in the scene that ‘shows Dreyman hiding next to the front door of the apartment building as Christa-Maria enters while, later on, Wiesler is hiding in the very same place when Dreyman enters’.24 Berghahn notes too that ‘only Wiesler – and, ironically, also Dreyman, the victim of Stasi surveillance – firmly believe in socialism’, but both men eventually ‘become disillusioned with the regime they used to support’.25 I would suggest, however, that the crucial affinity constructed here exists not between Wiesler and Dreyman, but rather between Wiesler and Sieland (even their names with the assonance on the ‘ie’ sound, the sibilant ‘s’ repetition, and the alliterative ‘l’ form aural echoes and subtle inversions). The link between Sieland in the foetal position and Wiesler clutching the umbilical cord is self-evident, and what happens next confirms this connection. Wiesler returns home, and washes his face in front of the mirror before a prostitute arrives with whom he has dispassionate sex. What Timothy Garton Ash unsympathetically refers to as the prostitute’s ‘outsize mutton thighs’ and ageing skin recall Hempf’s oversized, ageing bottom as he pulled down his trousers in the car.26 Wiesler thus enacts the same series of actions just performed by Christa-Maria but in reverse: dispassionate sex – washing and self-reflection – sleeping in the foetal position become sleeping in the foetal position – washing and self-reflection – dispassionate sex. Here the visual parallels constructed between the two characters’ experiences act as another subtle instance of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’, where we are given additional insight into their subjectivities through the careful construction of the camera angles and the mise-en-scène in this series of scenes. Where Sieland crumples down in the shower, disappearing from view, Wiesler rises up at the sink (erotically telling and symbolic of his ‘re-birth’ perhaps?). As Rinke observes, furthermore, ‘in this sequence the non-diegetic musical score functions as a sound bridge linking the feelings of Sieland (in the shower) with those of Wiesler eavesdropping in the attic above’.27 The shot separating these two series is of a roundabout in the middle of the night, in which the symbolism of turning and changing directions is all too evident [Figure 8]. Figure 8: View largeDownload slide The turning point? Figure 8: View largeDownload slide The turning point? Furthermore, where Wiesler is not only the ‘Schild und Schwert der Partei’ as per the Stasi motto, but also acts as a metonym for and personification of the ears of the GDR, Sieland concomitantly forms the eyes, ultimately also betraying Dreyman on the basis of what she has seen (the hiding place of the typewriter), not of what she has heard; Wiesler did not know the hiding place on the basis of his heard knowledge. In Dreyman’s play, in which we see Sieland perform at the start of the film, her character is that of a ‘Seherin’, a woman reluctantly afflicted with the power of prophecy, or sight into the future. As she plays this role, she looks directly at the camera, the point of view of which is at this moment that of the intradiegetic theatre audience, so the film audience and the theatre audience coincide. Sieland is the only character in the film ever to look directly into the camera (others look towards it but slightly past it, with a subtly alienating effect), and she does so repeatedly: when talking with Dreyman before his birthday party, when attempting to seduce Grubitz during her interrogation, and then again when Wiesler is compelled to interrogate her. The camera, into whose ‘eyes’ she looks, therefore moves through the perspectives of the theatre audience, Dreyman, Grubitz and Wiesler, and in each case the shot into Sieland’s eyes adds a feeling of intimacy. There is one moment when her symbolic power of sight falters, however: namely when she has an assignation with Hempf, and Dreyman begs her not to go. She leaves anyway, and a dispirited Wiesler, by this point sympathetic to the couple, goes to a nearby ‘Kneipe’. Sieland enters, late at night, in the dark, yet inexplicably sporting a pair of sunglasses. When Wiesler approaches her and tells her that she is loved and appreciated, Sieland falters and says she has to go, repeating the lie she has just recited to Dreyman: ‘Ich treffe eine alte Klassenkameradin’ (1.04.34). Wiesler responds: ‘Sehen Sie? Da waren Sie gerade gar nicht Sie selbst’ (1.04.42). He poses this question, ‘Sehen Sie? ’, and she responds by removing her dark glasses – literal and metaphorical – and, we subsequently learn, returning faithfully to Dreyman, thus demonstrating the restoration of her metaphorical sight; she once again ‘sees’ clearly. Sieland acts as a mirror for the audience, and we repeatedly see her stand before mirrors too. We look into her eyes, she almost breaks the fourth wall by looking back at us, and part of her tragedy lies in the orchestrated sense that ‘that might have been us’. The theme of martyrdom and redemption further links the psychic and somatic in both of these works. Kafka critics have suggested that Gregor Samsa’s death may have religious ramifications, with Breen proposing that not only the title’s connotations of transubstantiation but also the final ‘self-sacrifice for the good of his family’ create comparisons with Christ, and Eggenschwiler, for example, observing that when Gregor is wounded by his father’s Eden/Oedipal attack he is ‘made to feel nailed (“festgenagelt”) to the spot (perhaps making him Christ as well as Adam in this biblical collage)’.28 Similarly in Das Leben der Anderen, Christa-Maria Sieland, with the explicitly Christian connotations of her name, dies poetically with her arms outstretched in the shape of a crucifix or more specifically, as several critics have noted, the Pietà pose.29 But it is in fact more Wiesler who is the martyr of this story; he is the one who sacrifices his career and effectively risks his life in protecting Dreyman – we are repeatedly reminded of the kind of fate that might have awaited Wiesler in Hohenschönhausen if Grubitz had had concrete proof of his disloyalty rather than just circumstantial presumption. Sieland, like so many others in the film, is simply trying to protect herself (not an ignoble thing to do, as the film suggests). Like her character in Dreyman’s play, who has the unfortunate power of prophecy, Sieland sees her own professional demise in that of the blacklisted director, Jerska, and simply seeks too to avoid his fate of an actual demise (although ironically suicide is eventually also her release). Christa-Maria Sieland, like Gregor Samsa, demonstrates the shift from linguistic agent to sensuous self, and the emphasis on the body subtly anticipates her move from innocent to informer. In terms of the links between Sieland and Wiesler, this film is as much about the monsterization of an innocent human – turning from lover to human bug (as an ‘Inoffizielle Mitarbeiterin’) – as it is about the humanization of a perpetrator. Although the analysis of sensuality further illustrates the striking similarities in terms of storylines of these two works, it also highlights a major point of divergence in terms of emplotment. Von Donnersmarck’s tale of transformation effectively splits one role into two, creating a multi-directional transformation from a moral monster into an empathetic human being and back again simultaneously. The distinction between the Wiesler/Sieland multi-directional transformation and the solitary, wretched figure of Gregor Samsa’s metamorphosis is one of the most significant reasons, I would argue, for the distinction in morale and moral of the story by the end of both works. Spectator complicity: the viewer versus the bystander The presentations of space and sensual experience in these two works draw obvious attention to the physical experiences of the characters; these are insights into the sensations of others to which we do not normally have access in real life. With this emphasis on the physical experiences (which both influence and reflect the psychological changes) comes a mirror that reflects on us, the audience. Both of these works explore the psychological transformations of characters through the presentations of their changing environments and their reactions to the lives of those around them. But in many ways, we as readers and viewers are placed in the same position as Wiesler and Gregor; that is, we too are eavesdropping, we are also voyeurs, we are also sitting in the audience watching the lives of others unfold before us. The shifting focalization in both Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen forces us into a position of complicity. We effectively wake up with Gregor, learning of his physical changes in step with him. We hear his family and his superior from the office talking outside but we – like Gregor – do not see them. We hear Gregor speak, clearly and comprehensibly, before realizing that those beyond the door hear only a terrifying hissing sound. We are essentially on his side of the wall. This does not, however, last. And with the waning of focalized attention given to Gregor comes a waning of reader empathy. As Gregor is tempted from his room to hear the seductive tones of his sister’s violin playing, we are also lured from our confinement. This glimpse of escape adds to the sense of claustrophobic entrapment and marks a turning point for the reader. Eggenschwiler suggests that, until Gregor's death, the narrator’s physical (if not always intellectual) point of view is limited to Gregor’s, we need that open door so that we can observe the other Samsas for the first time as they deal with and endure the world in which they have become the main actors.30 Here, however, I detail the ways in which a perspectival shift is evident in terms of subtle inflections of language as Gregor leaves the room. In effect, we never quite re-join him fully in his bedroom, but instead remain partly outside with the family. Grete’s violin playing marks a watershed in the narrative. As Gregor is tempted from his room by the sound of the music and is overcome with the fantasy of bringing Grete back into his room and keeping her like a creature, just as he has been kept, the narrative perspective loses its resolute prioritization of Gregor. Instead we drift ever more onto the side of the family. After the outraged lodgers have given their notice, Grete instigates a family conference. Here, the narrator indicates insight into Grete’s private thoughts and intentions, while showing Gregor to be uncomprehending. Gregor’s father asks: ‘Was sollen wir aber tun?’ to which Grete responds simply with a gesture: ‘Die Schwester zuckte nur die Achseln zum Zeichen der Ratlosigkeit, die sie nun während des Weinens im Gegensatz zu ihrer früheren Sicherheit ergriffen hatte’ (my emphasis, 190). Their father continues questioningly: ‘Wenn er uns verstünde,’ and in response, ‘die Schwester schüttelte aus dem Weinen heraus heftig die Hand zum Zeichen, daß daran nicht zu denken sei’ (my emphasis, 190). The repetition of ‘zum Zeichen’ draws our attention to the fact that Grete’s intention – not the appearance of intention – is known to the narrator. Furthermore, after Grete’s increasingly anxious plea, the narrator observes: ‘Und in einem für Gregor gänzlich unverständlichen Schrecken verließ die Schwester sogar die Mutter, stieß sich förmlich von ihrem Sessel ab, als wollte sie lieber die Mutter opfern als in Gregors Nähe bleiben’ (191). Here, the focalization tacitly shifts back to Gregor, who finds Grete’s actions completely incomprehensible, and has to read meaning in her gestures as suggested by the conditional ‘als ob’ clause. As the violin music draws Gregor from his room, the narrative voice begins to oscillate, the focalization shifts; we are beyond the walls and with the family. In the closing lines of the story, we join their final escape: Dann verließen alle drei gemeinschaftlich die Wohnung, was sie schon seit Monaten nicht getan hatten, und fuhren mit der Elektrischen ins Freie vor die Stadt. Der Wagen, in dem sie allein saßen, war ganz von warmer Sonne durchschienen. Sie besprachen, bequem auf ihren Sitzen zurückgelehnt, die Aussichten für die Zukunft. (199) Now the stress placed on physical sensation – the warmth, the light, the comfort – is that of Gregor’s family. We now feel in step with them. Indeed, at this juncture Gregor’s parents note a change not in their son but in their daughter: Während sie sich so unterhielten, fiel es Herrn und Frau Samsa im Anblick ihrer immer lebhafter werdenden Tochter fast gleichzeitig ein, wie sie in der letzten Zeit trotz aller Plage, die ihre Wangen bleich gemacht hatte, zu einem schönen und üppigen Mädchen aufgeblüht war. (200) This, then, means that the story ends on the transformation of Gregor’s sister rather than of Gregor himself as though that was the ‘Verwandlung’ of the title. Like the alliterative and assonant links between Wiesler and Sieland, Gregor and Grete’s names also aurally intertwine. Where Gregor – who once felt such pride, ‘daß er seinen Eltern und seiner Schwester ein solches Leben in einer so schönen Wohnung hatte verschaffen können’ (144) – has now become synonymous with the apartment, his family wish simply to rid themselves of it and all that goes with it: ‘Die größte augenblickliche Besserung der Lage mußte sich natürlich leicht durch einen Wohnungswechsel ergeben’ (200). The parental plans, however, to find a suitable husband for Grete indicate not simply a transformation, but a kind of circularity: the thought exists now that their son will be replaced with a son-in-law and the cycle will begin again. This adds a sinister note to the potentially saccharine image of familial resolution reached by the end. In Das Leben der Anderen a similar pattern of focalization seemingly places the viewer in a morally dubious position, but ultimately this position crumbles. Even in simplistic terms, again we join the story with Wiesler as our guide in the opening interrogation and lecture scene. On one level, it might appear that the viewer is just another ignorant member of the audience, learning from the experienced Stasi Captain like the other trainees. But then as the camera shifts to Wiesler’s point of view and we see him put a mark against the student’s name for challenging his moral authority, we see what only he is able to see. We are both behind the desk on stage with Wiesler and in the audience learning with the students. The man’s moralistic question speaks also of the voice of hindsight of the cinema audience; it is a challenge with which we are led to sympathise. But in the theatre at Dreyman’s play, Wiesler’s colleague and superior, Anton Grubitz, is used as a foil to force us into more empathy – or perhaps simply complicity – with Wiesler. Not only do we see little of the play ourselves (only a series of brief montages as though reflecting Wiesler’s own partial concentration – a kind of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ through temporal elision), but we also witness Grubitz’s duplicity at Wiesler’s expense. Wiesler suggests to Grubitz that they should place Dreyman under surveillance, an idea which Grubitz is quick to ridicule. The latter then joins Minister Hempf in the lower circle of the audience and – reacting to Hempf’s subtext – he repeats Wiesler’s idea but claims it as his own, and thus gains Hempf’s congratulatory approval. For all of our moral doubts about Wiesler’s political and professional position, in contrast to Grubitz and Hempf he is shown to be less opportunistic and personally motivated, but instead led by staunch convictions. Wiesler’s surveillance then leads us into the life of Dreyman. We witness the bugging operation of Dreyman’s flat, and then join him in the attic. But where Wiesler can only hear what is going on in the flat, we frequently enter it and move around with Dreyman, Sieland and their friends. Indeed, when Dreyman’s friend Paul Hauser hatches a plan to check whether or not Dreyman’s flat is bugged, we are able to read their written conversation in Hauser’s flat and we join them in the Stasi-free safety of the park to discuss this plan. We therefore gain increasing knowledge that goes beyond the reach of Wiesler. So the focalization gradually abandons Wiesler and shifts ever more to Dreyman. This shift in character knowledge and thus audience perspective occurs – as in Die Verwandlung – through music. In this instance, however, we too are able to hear the music rather than simply read its evocation in words. Just as with the visual evocation of space, our empathetic experience as physical viewers in the cinema is more immediately on a par with the characters than that of our hearsay, distanced experience as readers of literature. Where Gregor in Kafka’s story is enticed from his room by Grete’s violin playing, which marks a subtle change in narrative focalization, Wiesler in von Donnersmarck’s film is tempted out of his cold, inhuman Stasi ways by Dreyman’s piano playing. Hauser rings Dreyman to tell him the news that their friend Albert Jerska, an eminent theatre director blacklisted for his outspoken comments against the regime, has hanged himself. In his grief, Dreyman picks up the score of the piano sonata recently given to him by Jerska, and begins to play. Sieland stands behind Dreyman and the camera begins to spin around them before cutting to Wiesler in the attic, with his own tears of grief pouring down his cheeks, and the camera continues to revolve, thus effectively encircling Wiesler, Dreyman and Sieland and thereby indicating the emotional union they are beginning to form. This is a stark instance of the ‘polyphonic perspective’ observed by Hedges, Ghaffary and Nojoumian, discussed above. Such a split is far harder to achieve or indeed to identify in the third-person narration of Die Verwandlung that relies heavily on erlebte Rede to give voice to Gregor’s inner life in moments of seemingly omniscient narration. The question that Gregor asks himself in Die Verwandlung when he hears his sister’s music, ‘War er ein Tier, da ihn Musik so ergriff?’ (185), is echoed by Dreyman, who asks, ‘Kann jemand, der diese Musik gehört hat, ich meine wirklich gehört hat, noch ein schlechter Mensch sein?’ (54.36) Although this is commonly considered to be the major turning point of the film, I would argue that this moment primarily marks a shift in focalization (and that the roundabout scene, discussed above, actually represents the major turning point).31 At this juncture, the perspective shifts, and so in this respect the moment is of more obvious importance for the audience. When Dreyman and Hauser’s uncle then discuss their fake plan to smuggle Hauser out of the East (in an effort to verify whether or not Dreyman’s apartment has been bugged), the tables of dramatic irony are momentarily turned as Wiesler – unlike the audience – remains entirely ignorant of the plan’s real point. At the end of the film Dreyman goes to the Stasi archives, having learned from Hempf about the existence of the extensive surveillance he had been under, to read the reports written by HGW XX/7 (Wiesler’s officer code), and discovers that the Stasi ‘facts’ about his life are largely fiction, thanks to the life-saving efforts of Wiesler. In the final scene, we see Wiesler – now a lonely leaflet delivery man (his surroundings are still grey but now outside and open, and he is dwarfed in them showing the sympathetic subjective space of ‘erlebtes Zeigen’ once more) – noticing Dreyman’s new book in a bookshop and, upon opening it, discovering that it is dedicated to him. This gives a retroactive gloss to the narrative: perhaps the tale we witnessed on screen was the story of Dreyman’s book rather than that of Wiesler’s reports. Or perhaps it started as a Stasi report and ended as a redemptive book, thus suggesting a narrative transformation. In both Das Leben der Anderen and Die Verwandlung, we as the audience begin by sharing the perspectives of the principal protagonists. But by the end, the narrative position has shifted, and this narrative position dictates the overall tone of each work. By the end of Die Verwandlung, we – like Gregor’s family – may have heartlessly abandoned him because we are also being stifled by the claustrophobic atmosphere. We, the readers, are essentially akin to the family’s maid who scurries away, appalled and confused, swearing secrecy but grateful to escape. And in Das Leben der Anderen, we are much like Dreyman’s neighbour, swearing secrecy, but filled with silent misgivings and ultimately feeling incapable of action or resistance. But in the case of the film, we lose our insight into Wiesler’s world as he is transformed from the representative of the ‘unmenschlich[en]’ Stasi techniques at the start to being a ‘gute[r] Mensch’ at the end, whereas in Kafka’s story we abandon Gregor as he declines ever deeper into his helpless, fragile non-existence. In both works, the audience does what the morally dubious characters do themselves: we spy on the lives of others in von Donnersmarck’s film and we abandon the vulnerable in Kafka’s story. These narratives are not simply about other people, but both also act as mirrors held up to the audience. Conclusion In terms of the storylines, both Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen depict transformations, not just of one person in each case but of multiple characters. In both instances, the main characters find a correlative in another character, so that while one person declines, the other blossoms. Gregor’s temporal mirror image can be found in his sister Grete: while he dissolves into nothing, she becomes a woman full of possibility and life. For Wiesler in von Donnersmarck’s film, his temporal mirror image exists in Sieland, and as he develops morally, she is mauled by Stasi parasites and then pitilessly crushed in multiple senses. So what is the difference between these works? Why might the reader experience a sense of relief in escaping Gregor’s lair and yet an empty despondency at this escape at the end of Kafka’s tale, and conversely why are so many critics and viewers (even reluctantly) moved and filled with a renewed joy and hope for humanity at the end of von Donnersmarck’s film? Such crucial differences in reactions, morale and moods are, I suggest, fundamentally questions of emplotment rather than story. Gregor wakes up as an insect, but we essentially know him first as a human being: we hear his thoughts and words, speak his language, need to become accustomed to his changes as he learns about them himself. In Wiesler’s case, we see him first of all as ‘unmenschlich’, as a master manipulator with particular prowess in psychological torture, and then we watch him learn empathy, emotion and compassion. The reader feels Gregor’s linguistic loss because his perspective is prioritized at the start and abandoned at the end. The viewer senses Wiesler’s emotional development because we are forced to be in the interrogation room with him at the start and are able to exit the stuffy attic with him as the surveillance operation is dismantled at the end. Had von Donnersmarck told the story from Christa-Maria Sieland’s perspective – she after all also listens to Dreyman play the ‘Sonate vom guten Menschen’, but to her it speaks as a warning of a professional and actual death rather than as a redemptive sign of hope for humanity – then the film might have ended with a sense of the hollow despondency that Kafka elicits. These works tell essentially the same tale from different perspectives and, although they focus to a surprisingly similar degree on dissipation of spatial boundaries, sensuous experience and the moral complicity of viewers, the contrast in media greatly influences the contrast in effect: the evocation of space and sensation in the film is more immediate and often less subtle; in Kafka’s story, Gregor’s perspective is sometimes only made palpable through a subtle inflection of language, which colours the way in which we read the tale. Both works make use of a kind of ‘free indirect discourse’, but the difference between Kafka’s erlebte Rede and what I have termed erlebtes Zeigen in von Donnermarck’s film is that the latter does not change the story itself, or colour the way we read it, but instead adds to the depth of character and mood. Such a notion may be more generally applicable in terms of the distinction between literature and film. Since the narratorial voice (and any perspective it adopts) in literature is responsible for the progression of the story, this unavoidably impacts on how we view the story at any given moment. But the non-linguistic nature of erlebtes Zeigen does not necessarily do the same. Both Die Verwandlung and Das Leben der Anderen are essentially about everyday humanity and everyday inhumanity, but Kafka leaves us with the sense that humans are complex conglomerations of both and that our own relief as readers is a symptom of our own combination of humanity and inhumanity; von Donnersmarck suggests, however, that we all have the potential to be redeemed, thus shedding much of the complexity of Kafka’s tale. Die Verwandlung is painfully prophetic of the dehumanization that history soon brought and will no doubt periodically continue to bring, while Das Leben der Anderen is comfortably retrospective in using modern-day Western morals to condemn a regime that relied (as do all regimes) on ordinary human beings rather than mythical monsters. Ironically perhaps, it is Die Verwandlung that forces us to interrogate our attitudes to the lives of others, while Das Leben der Anderen simply calls for a straightforward (and arguably implausible) transformation. Footnotes 1 Aristotle, Poetics, trans. by Malcolm Heath (London: Penguin, 1996), pp. 13–14. 2 All future citations to the film will be in this form (as in minute and second, or hour, minute and second.) 3 Franz Kafka, ‘Die Verwandlung’, in Drucke zu Lebzeiten, ed. by Wolf Kittler, Hans-Gerd Koch and Gerhard Neumann (Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Verlag, 1994), pp. 115–200 (p. 185); all future references are to this edition. 4 Owen Evans, ‘Redeeming the Demon? The Legacy of the Stasi in Das Leben der Anderen’, Memory Studies, 3.2 (2010), 164–77 (p. 174). 5 Das Leben der Anderen has thus far received little attention as a filmic piece of art rather than as a representation of the GDR; the following have been more aesthetically analytical in approach, and this article seeks to further this debate: Daniela Berghahn, ‘Remembering the Stasi in a Fairy Tale of Redemption: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Das Leben der Anderen’, Oxford German Studies, 38.2 (2009), 321–33; Paul Cooke, The Lives of Others and Contemporary German Film (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013); Evans, ‘Redeeming the Demon?'. 6 This also raises an interesting aspect of the contrast between literature and film. Gilles Deleuze discusses the shift from early to later cinema where the role of the viewer changes, but all cinema allows the audience to partake of visual and aural experience in a way not afforded by literature: Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta (London: Continuum, 2005). 7 Franz Kafka, Briefe April 1914–1917, ed. by Hans-Gerd Koch (Frankfurt a.M: Fischer Verlag, 2005), p. 145. 8 Mohammad Ghaffary and Amir Ali Nojoumian, ‘A Poetics of Free Indirect Discourse in Narrative Film’, Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 5.2 (2013), 269–81 (p. 274). 9 Inez Hedges calls this the ‘arranger’: ‘Form and Meaning in the French Film, II: Narration and Point of View’, The French Review, 54.2 (1980), 288–98 (p. 289). 10 Emily Troscianko, Kafka’s Cognitive Realism (New York: Routledge, 2014), p. 4; Ritchie Robertson, ‘Reading the Clues: Kafka, “Der Proceß” ’, in The German Novel in the Twentieth Century: Beyond Realism, ed. by David Midgley (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993), pp. 59–79 (p. 60). 11 Peter-André Alt, Kafka und der Film: Über kinematographisches Erzählen (Munich: Beck, 2009), p. 7; Kafka, Briefe April 1914–1917, p. 145. 12 Evelyn Finger, ‘Die Bekehrung. “Das Leben der Anderen”: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck setzt mit seinem Film über die DDR Maßstäbe’, Die Zeit, 26 February 2007. 13 Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, ‘Seeing a Film Before You Make It’, in ‘The Lives of Others’ and Contemporary German Film, ed. by Paul Cooke (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), pp. 19–36 (pp. 32–33) (his emphasis). 14 Lutz Koepnick, ‘The Sounds of Others’, in The Lives of Others, ed. by Paul Cooke, pp. 179–97; Cheryl Dueck, ‘The Humanization of the Stasi in “Das Leben Der Anderen” ’, German Studies Review, 31.3 (2008), 599–609. 15 David Eggenschwiler, ‘ “Die Verwandlung,” Freud, and the Chains of Odysseus’, in Critical Insights: Metamorphosis, ed. by James Whitlark (Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2012), pp. 166–94 (pp. 170–71). 16 Peter B. Waldeck, ‘Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung” and “Ein Hungerkünstler” as Influenced by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’, Monatshefte, 64 (1972), 147–52; Elizabeth Boa, Kafka: Gender, Class, and Race in the Letters and Fictions (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), p. 128. 17 Loss of sight was also associated with masturbation in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century medical discourse. 18 Anniken Greve, ‘The Human Body and the Human Being in “Die Verwandlung” ’, in Franz Kafka: Narration, Rhetoric, and Reading, ed. by Jakob Lothe, Beatrice Sandberg and Ronald Speirs (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2011), pp. 40–57 (p. 54). 19 Kimberly Sparks, ‘Drei schwarze Kaninchen: zu einer Deutung der Zimmerherren in Kafkas “Die Verwandlung” ’, Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie, 84 (1965), 73–82 (p. 78). 20 Stanley Corngold, The Commentators’ Despair: The Interpretation of Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” (Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1973), p. 11. 21 Andrea Rinke, ‘Fear and (Self-)Loathing in East Berlin: Gender and Melodrama in The Lives of Others’, in The Lives of Others, ed. by Cooke, pp. 101–19 (p. 106). 22 Gary Schmidt, ‘Between Authors and Agents: Gender and Affirmative Culture in Das Leben der Anderen’, The German Quarterly, 82.2 (2009), 231–49 (p. 233). 23 Koepnick, ‘The Sounds of Others’, pp. 184–85. 24 Berghahn, ‘Remembering the Stasi’, p. 327. 25 Ibid., pp. 327–29. 26 Timothy Garton Ash, The New York Review, 31 May 2007 <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/may/31/the-stasi-on-our-minds/> [accessed 15 July 2016]. 27 Rinke, ‘Fear and (Self-)Loathing in East Berlin', p. 114. 28 Margaret Sönser Breen, ‘Reading for Constructions of the Unspeakable in Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” ’, in Critical Insights: Metamorphosis, ed. by James Whitlark (Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2012), pp. 119–32 (pp. 128–29); Eggenschwiler, ‘ “Die Verwandlung,” Freud, and the Chains of Odysseus’, p. 176. 29 See for example: Dueck, ‘The Humanization of the Stasi’, p. 603; Berghahn, ‘Remembering the Stasi’, p. 331; Rinke, ‘Fear and (Self-)Loathing in East Berlin, p. 118. 30 Eggenschwiler, ‘ “Die Verwandlung,” Freud, and the Chains of Odysseus’, p. 179. 31 See, for example, Berghahn, ‘Remembering the Stasi’, p. 329. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press for the Court of the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved. The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No. SC013532. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)

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Forum for Modern Language StudiesOxford University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2018

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