Cast: Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Saß, Maria Simon, Chulpan
Khamatova, Florian Lukas, Alexander Beyer, Burghart Klaßner
In a world of instant global communication and unprecedented technological
change, Goodbye, Lenin! is a whimsical attempt to look back
and revel in the simplicity of a not-too-distant past. Director Wolfgang
Becker explores this idea through the story of an East German
brother named Alex and his younger sister (Bruhl and Simon).
Their lives are dramatically upended when their mother Christiane
(Sass) first falls into what seems an irreversible coma, and
then miraculously awakens almost a year later. Her heart is frail,
the doctors inform them, and she can’t take any sudden shocking
information. The problem is a great deal of shocking change has indeed
taken place in the brief time Christiane has been comatose. The Berlin
Wall has fallen and East Germans are experiencing rapid social change
and dramatic economic progress. Alex in particular, resolves to turn
back the clock and preserve his mother’s surroundings as if
it were 1988. In his fictitious creation, this not only means East
and West Germany remain divided by the Berlin Wall, it also means
friends and neighbors are “comrades” and grocery shelves
These are but a few of the outlandish efforts Alex
constructs to keep up the façade. In addition
to wearing outdated fashion styles, he resorts to
changing the labels on food jars and doctoring phony
news segments to convince his mother nothing has
changed. A more deft comedy writer could have had
great fun with such material, with Christiane becoming
gradually suspicious of her surroundings. Unfortunately
Becker and co-writer Lichtenberg lack such
skills and Goodbye, Lenin! features almost
no clever “near-misses” that could have
wonderfully unraveled the charade. The only exception
to Christiane’s oblivion is not used to forward
the plot, but instead to pay homage to film director
Federico Fellini. Only astute film viewers
(such as hybridmagazine.com readers) will recognize
that the classic opening shot from La Dolce Vita
is being copied. Remember the Christ figure dangling
from a cable as it’s flown across the skyline
of Rome? Here it’s Christiane finally wandering
out from her apartment only to watch in astonishment
as a beckoning statue of Lenin hovers in
the air before being flown out of the city by helicopter.
And yet still Christiane doesn’t take the
hint that something is amiss and Goodbye, Lenin!
languishes on for at least another hour as Alex
and his sister continue to dupe their mother into
believing socialism is alive and well and living
in East Germany.
Christiane’s health continues to fail, so
in a measure of desperation Alex concocts the ultimate
fabrication: Through his phony newscasts, his mother
watches Berlin erupting in celebration at the crumbling
of the Wall with jubilant Germans waving flags and
scampering atop the former concrete barrier. “These
people want a different life,” says the broadcaster,
“Not everyone wants careerism and spiraling
consumerism. They’ve realized there’s
more to life than cars, VCRs, and TV sets. They’re
tired of capitalism and the never-ending rat race.”
Ah, at long last, Germany is as one. It’s
a sweet ending; regrettably, with a running time
of almost two hours, it’s too long in the
coming. One senses most German citizens in either
the east and or the west never had to wait so long
for unification to really take place.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...