With actors Daniel Brühl and Katrin Saß
available on DVD with English subtitles in the US
Goodbye Lenin! is a mixture of history, comedy and drama that works quite well, even when dealing with such heavy material such as the Cold War, a coma in the family and the loss of a person’s (and even a country’s) identity. After Alexander Kerner’s father, Robert, escapes to the West and fails to bring the rest of the family over, Alex’s mother, Christiane, devotes her entire life to the GDR state to cope with his loss. After she sees Alex being arrested in a demonstration for the liberalization of the East during the final days of the GDR, she falls into a coma. During those months, East Germany is rapidly de-socialized and capitalist influences from the West flood in, and only in a matter of a few months, the entire East is transformed into a Western country. However in order to protect his mother from the shock of how much things have tried after she awakes from her coma, Alex tries, with increasingly elaborate plans, to hide the fact that Germany has been unified and keep frozen in time a part of the East for his mother.
Alex’s attempt to preserve the East while the West has increasing influence shows just how different the two countries were. The jovial attitude in the first half of the film quickly gives way to a more dramatic, moving and captivating storytelling in the second half. As Christiane regains her health, Alex finds that no matter how cunning his rticks are to preserve a little bit of the East, the developments of the West are just too much for him to hold back and protect her mother from. After months of his charades, Alex finally recognizes that his mother should come to terms to with the present.
The film’s plot is an interesting depiction of the transition of the two Germanys and it is wonderful how the two conflicts, one between family and the other between nation, accompany each other and makes the story even more enjoyable. The director carefully uses artifacts of the East throughout the film. For the viewers who grew up in the GDR, these remnants surely strike a chord. This film is an excellent look back at reunification and it is especially fitting that it was released just a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
by David Liu