Good Bye Lenin! (2003)

Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova, Florian Lukas,
Good Bye Lenin! is a movie starring Daniel Brühl, Katrin Sa?, and Chulpan Khamatova. In 1990, to protect his fragile mother from a fatal shock after a long coma, a young man must keep her from learning that her beloved nation of...
  • 7.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Bernd Lichtenberg, Achim von Borries, Henk Handloegten, Chris Silber, Writer:
  • Wolfgang Becker, Director:
  • Stefan Arndt, Producer:
9 / 10

Excellent film

I didn't have too many expectations for this film. My partner pitched it to me as a comedy, and I hadn't seen the trailer in a while so I went into thinking that's all it would be. Instead, it really was a sublimely sophisticated film.

I had the good fortune to see East Berlin first in July 1989 (there was *ZERO* hint that the wall would be down in 4 months) and then in February 1990. It was an amazing before and after, and I thought this film captured this very well. As a visitor to the East for several months that year, this film really brought back to me the East European Quiet Revolution when everything really did change.

The characters going through that change are of course an allegory for the changes all around them- '40 years gone! They sold us up river!' says an old man who represents those who 'lost' in the reunification contrasted to those who won-the youth. Similarly, the contrast of personal re-unification (the children and their father) vs that of the east and west is a wonderfully treated theme through the film?. And of course lies. Lies to comfort us, lies to deal with other lies. A very, very touching film.

7 / 10

Socially conscious black comedy

'Good Bye, Lenin!' is a fascinating German film that was for unclear reasons denied a best foreign film nomination in the recent Oscars, but I consider it one of the best films I've seen this year. 'Good Bye, Lenin!' is an entertaining and surreal black comedy, that doesn't really stand the test of logic and reality, but beneath the surface it's really a very socially conscious film, that gets across very well the atmosphere and problems of the post-communist East Germany.

The story is of Alex, whose mother, a devoted member of the Communist Party, suffers a heart attack which sends her into a coma - through which she sleeps throughout the months of revolution and the fall of the communist regime. When she awakes, the doctors warn Alex not to cause his mother any anxiety or excitement; therefore, he goes to ludicrously immense lengths to keep her convinced that communism in East Berlin is still alive. Not much of it, once again, stands the test of reason, but it's incredibly witty and entertaining, and manages, throughout, to get across some powerful statements.

'Good Bye, Lenin!' is both fun and important, a film which I recommend to everyone. Don't be afraid of European cinema; even though the film might be difficult to come by, it's very rewarding and well worth your time.

10 / 10

The charming social construction of history

I found this movie to be a charming film and very engaging on both a personal and a social level. The story is drawn from the lives of an East Berlin family struggling to cope with the changing world as their way of life is challenged. The father, having reportedly left the family for the West years before, is not present and the mother replaces her spousal needs with the love of her country and its way of life.

The premise of the film centers on the frail mother, who falls into a coma mere weeks before the fall of the Berlin wall. Eight months later, she regains consciousness, and her children are told not to excite her, lest she have another episode.

Bound by their love of their mother, the son and daughter seek to shield her from the changes in her culture. In their apartment, they recreate the conditions of the world she remembers, right down to the labels on the food they serve her. As the mother comes into contact with the inevitable disparities between her new world and the one she remembers, the son compounds the deception, eventually creating false newscasts to explain the phenomena she witnesses in a manner more consistent with her core assumptions of life.

The film is touching, tender, funny and dramatic. However, the elements that really drew me in were the historical construction and the plot device of deception.

The historical construction was the way in which the son, through his efforts to explain the increasingly Westernized elements of German society his mother observes, recreates East Germany as the country he could have faith in. As he recreates history to incorporate current events, he softens the harshness of the party rhetoric, reforming the socialistic ideal closer to the compassion for the masses and the acceptance of the 'enemy' capitalists. The film makes ample use of actual news footage in his narrative, footage that adds sharp contrast to Alex's version.

This contrast is a striking reminder about how much of our social conscience is constructed through the lenses we choose to observe reality and recall history. Alex had quickly come to give up his socialist devotion (though the film does make it clear form the beginning that the adult Alex was already disenchanted with it). But as Alex fabricates news reports and artifacts for the illusion he's providing his mother, he actually appears to be inventing a system of socialism that he can feel proud of. It's almost as if in trying to console his mother, he connects to her by reinterpreting her world into something he can interface with, building common ground.

How much of our own social history is constructed in this manner? We champion our own system of free market democracy as the 'city on the hill' for other nations. We raise up the virtues of our freedom and individuality (and there are indisputably many virtues), while ignoring some of the more sorted historical results it has yielded. We choose which portions of our history we celebrate, and which portions we condemn to academic obscurity.

Americans use history to construct our national mythology. Like Homer and Virgil before us, we compose idealized stories of virtue and create narratives that resound with the language of legendary epics. And because of this mythology building exercise, we often fail to see our own cultural reality for the flawed imperfect collection of group effort that it is. That's why we feel so betrayed when our leaders make simple human mistakes or we see representatives of our culture participating in a manner that runs counter to our values.

No where is this phenomenon so pronounced as when it comes to our national leaders. We look back on our founding fathers and through our myth building, elevate them to superhuman stature. Our high school students may not remember what wars Washington fought in or what political initiatives he took but they remember that he cut down a (fictional) cherry tree and refused to lie about it.

We remember the elegant words that our predecessors crafted without remembering the pain and suffering their efforts exacted from other people. We remember that Thomas Jefferson advocated 'Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political ?' while conveniently forgetting that he was ambivalent at best to the degree that freedom extended to those in a state of slavery. We forget that founding father quarreled, that at times they misrepresented each other's interest to foreign leaders and that on occasion may have even tried to kill one another.

The founding fathers we remembered were well educated, civil and wise.

Against this tapestry of myth we watch contemporary politics play out, trying desperately to spin events into frameworks that reinforce our desires for justice and virtue.

We are all Alex, trying to reconstruct a new view of history that makes us more proud of where we come from. We invent and reinvent history to suit our needs and like Alex, do so in the name of providing a safe environment (or better way of life) for others.

7 / 10

A beautiful portrayal of family and politics

The concept of this movie, which is that a young man has to do all in his power to stop his mother who is recovering from a heart attack learning of what's happened to Germany while she was in a coma, is absolutely delicious, but it's a premise that could easily go wrong. However, I'm pleased to report that it certainly didn't go wrong, and through interesting characterisation, a great script and some thought-provoking ideas; Good Bye, Lenin! is a winner all the way! An excellent ensemble gives way to a story that has a lot of heart, and one that makes it's points - both politically and otherwise - without the use of a sledgehammer. Good Bye, Lenin! is one of those films that is what you make of it; on the one hand, it's a touching and entertaining story of a boy's journey into adulthood and his love for his mother, but on the other hand; it's a biting political satire that intertwines themes of how our perception of certain truths can impact our lives.

Daniel Brühl, a young Spanish talent, takes the lead role as 'Alex', the young man at the centre of the tale. Through his subtle acting, Daniel is able to capture the determination and adoration that epitomise his character wonderfully. He is joined by the beautiful Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon and Alexander Beyer, who lend support to Brühl, as his girlfriend, sister and sister's boyfriend respectively, along with Kathrin Sass, who takes the central role of the mother recovering from a heart attack. I can't pick a single fault with any one of them. The setting of the fall of the Berlin Wall serves as a great place to set this story, as it allows the film to give a commentary on the changes of Germany's political landscape at the same time as allowing us to take in themes of family, love and the perception of truth that are abundantly clear. There aren't many bad things that I can say about it, and the only one really is that it can be a bit over sentimental at times. On the whole, however, Good Bye, Lenin! is an absolute treat and most certainly one of the better movies to have been released so far this decade.

8 / 10

Refreshing

This was a good film, and I think it needed to be made. A way of life disappeared in Europe, perhaps forever, and it seems appropriate that the fall of Communism has thus been documented.

The basic premise of "Goodbye Lenin" is that the young man's mother is in a coma over the months when the Berlin Wall is coming down. She wakes up (oblivious) in united Germany, but as she is so fragile she cannot be allowed to know that everything she held dear has collapsed. What ensues is a comic and moving scenario - her son does his best to pretend that nothing has changed.

Yes, the movie is a little drawn-out. And most of the comedy is lost on non-Germans, or those unaware of the political climate in the region. However, there are clear universal issues to be considered; idealism, hope, family. There is one particular scene which I thought encompassed exactly how the main protagonist feels - he is at a bank trying to change his mother's old East German currency into Deutschmarks but the deadline has passed. He becomes aggravated by the sheep-like behaviour of his peers. After all, this is their culture being crushed by McCapitalism, but their individual vaunting ambition blinds them from doing something about it. Very refreshing to see this on the big screen.

All in all, "Goodbye Lenin" is a nicely-rounded statement of where the European film industry is heading, and it will appeal to most independent-minded people on both an artistic and political level. 8/10.