Have you seen the 2006 German film “The Lives of Others”? (Original title: Das Leben der Anderen) You may recall the wonderful actor Ulrich Mühe, who played the conflicted Stasi agent, and who died of cancer in 2007, just after the film’s release.
I tell you this as background to a rather sad but touching story. Last night I finally watched the whole of Michael Hanecke’s Das weisse Band (English title: “The White Ribbon”). It’s a difficult film to sit through, I found, but worth the discomfort. It’s beautifully made, and the performances are incredibly riveting.
I found myself looking up the cast list the next morning, as I had recognized only two or three of the actors. One whom I hadn’t known (or at least hadn’t recognized) but who had made a considerable impression on me was Susanne Lothar, who played the midwife. A little online research brought her more clearly into focus, and brought back something I had half-heard mentioned last summer. Susanne Lothar was married to Ulrich Mühe. They had met in 1990 as Mühe’s second marriage was ending (he had just come out of East Germany, and after the Wall fell all sorts of unpleasant things started coming to light, such as the fact that Mühe’s second wife had supplied information about her husband — unwittingly, she claimed — to the Stasi. When later asked how he had prepared for his role as a Stasi agent in “The Lives of Others”, he answered, “I remembered.”)
Mühe did a lot of film and TV work, but Lothar was a stage actress, the unsettling kind which one finds in the best German theaters. She had a special talent for portraying the fragile, the damaged, the soul in pain.
When Mühe became ill, they kept it to themselves. Shortly after his appearance at the 2007 Academy Awards, he underwent surgery for stomach cancer. He died on July 22 of that year.
On July 21 2012, just one day short of the fifth anniversary of Mühe’s passing, Lothar died. The cause of her death, to my knowledge, has never been made public. It is assumed that she took her own life. She was 51. One can imagine that she believed that five years without him had been enough.