GOOD BYE LENIN!
Alex (Daniel Bruhl) grows up in socialist East Germany, but his father leaves for the West while heís still a young boy. When in October 1989 his proudly socialist mother Christiane (Katrin Sass) sees him arrested during a demonstration, she has a heart attack and goes into an eight month coma. When she finally wakes up, Alex draws his family and friends into a conspiracy to prevent her from learning that the world she knew and loved has gone forever. Socialism is not only alive and well but envied by the West, and Germany has not been unified. The sham puts a lot of strain on him and his immediate circle, including his girlfriend Lara (Chulpan Khamatova). But his mother has some secrets of her own.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With a great title and its relevance reflected in one wordless scene with a Lenin statue in a harness under a helicopter (reminding us of Felliniís original version of the shot with the statute of Christ flying over Rome, the opening shot in La Dolce Vita), the film arrives in Australia after considerable popular success (and several awards) in Germany and Europe.†
Goodbye, Lenin! strikes several political points at the expense of old socialism as well as scoring a few easy points off the free market model of economic management (quaintly calling it capitalism, with the wordís inherent baggage dragged along). The moral sneering at western commercialism doesnít really sit well with the virtual absence of reference to the moral and human rights bankruptcy of communism in practice.†
But the film is really about the relationship of a devoted son and his doting mother, who turns out to be a liar of the worst kind. Wolfgang Beckerís script ends up implying that her affection for the values of socialism were as phoney as her motherly morality. This would have been explosive material had Becker had the courage of his convictions; rather, the film plays like a soft centred semi-comedic piece of nostalgia, framed by politics but relying on the single joke of Alex trying to maintain a false reality for his bedridden mother.†
Even with that proviso, I would have enjoyed the film much more if he had been economical in the telling of it. Two hours?! The dramatic tension for much of the filmís running time is as slight as a telemovie might offer, and the revelations in the third act set up a new scenario which seems manufactured as a way of adding oomph to the ending. The filmís enormous popularity in Germany is not hard to understand, given the political element, but I donít think it will have as big an impact for other audiences.†
Review by Jake Wilson:†
This rueful comic allegory about the fall of the Berlin Wall is bourgeois cinema in every sense, but skilful on its own terms Ė the actors and the soft-focus images are attractive, and the plot complications are ingenious if a bit drawn out. Mainly, the filmmakers deserve credit for their nuanced treatment of an intrinsically important theme: though the director and co-writer are both West Germans, many scenes have the intimacy of family jokes, fashioned to evoke collective memories of life in the old GDR. Half-forgotten rituals and images, rendered instantly obsolete under capitalism, are fetishized throughout by the camera as well as the hero (one rather heavy-handed running gag concerns the latterís glee in uncovering old government-branded jars of coffee and pickles).†
For viewers who canít directly share this local nostalgia, the film also works as a ďuniversalĒ fable about the generation gap: struggling to stay loyal to both his mother and his new Russian girlfriend, Alexís solution is to evade the responsibilities of maturity by literally living in the past. The implicit view of Communism as a childhood fairy-tale to be outgrown may be bogus and sentimental, and the accompanying sexual politics are comparably dubious, but itís still possible to admire the filmís deft manipulation of its chosen metaphors.†
One inspired scene is almost enough to raise Good Bye Lenin to the level of a classic: as part of a fake news broadcast, Alex and his budding filmmaker friend detour real-life footage of the Wallís collapse, throwing it into reverse and making it appear that West Germans are flocking to enter the workersí paradise of East Berlin. So much comedy and sadness is contained in that one image that the rest of the film seems almost redundant: as Alex comments, this is history as it should have been, and itís heartbreaking that we should now find such fantasy so patently absurd.
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GOOD BYE LENIN! (M)
CAST: Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sass, Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon, Florian Lukas, Alexander Beyer, Burghart Klaussner
PRODUCER: Stafan Arndt
DIRECTOR: Wolfgang Becker,
SCRIPT: Bernd Lichtenberg, Wolfgang Becker
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Martin Kukula
EDITOR: Peter R. Adam
MUSIC: Yann Tiersen
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lothar Holler
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2003