What does this film, set in 1984 East Germany, tell us about the role of culture ministries in closed and authoritarian communist countries? What does it indicate about the role of fear and self-preservation in the exertion of control in such totalitarian systems of government? Is manipulation of such fear an engine of betrayal? How does day to day surveillance of private life affect Stasi agent Gerd Wiesler as he undertakes the task he so eagerly recommended to his superiors? How does the intimacy, and the literature and music he is exposed to as he watches writer Georg Dreyman and his girlfriend, actress Christa Sieland, drive the change in Wiesler from committed functionary to compassionate secret ally? How does the title reflect Wiesler’s lack of a personal life, and what message does that send us with regard to balancing career and life? How does the film cause us to reflect on parallel cases in the West, such as that of Edward Snowden? How much of an indictment of communism is this film, and how applicable is its lesson in the case of 21st Century communist China?