Good Bye, Lenin ! (German - 2008) - A Review

Language -German
Genre - Comedy, Drama
Release -2003

Goodbye, Lenin !
Good Bye, Lenin ! - DVD Cover
There have been a number of movies dealing with the East and West German divide as the backdrop. A divide that was more than a physical demarcation (embodied by the Berlin Wall) but rather the clash of interests and ideologies. Most of them have been espionage thrillers such as the ones based on John Le Carre novels or thrillers that dealt with the dystopian state of East Germany policed by the notorious Stasi as presented in the brilliant (and one of my all time favorites), The Lives of Others (Read Review) .

In Good Bye Lenin !, Wolfgang Becker presents a delightfully refreshing and entertaining comical satire on the subject, and also takes us through the tumultuous event of Berlin Wall Collapse for the unification of Germany from the perspective of a East German family. It also presents a interesting view of Capitalism conquering over Socialism as was seen after the unification.

Released in 2003, Goodbye, Lenin ! is the winner of 7 German Film Awards and 3 European Film Awards including Best Film and Best Actor. The movie was also nominated for a Golden Globe but lost out to the moving Afghani drama Osama. In 2010, the movie featured in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" at Rank #91.

The Kerners: Alex, Christiane and Ariane
Alex Kerner (Daniel Bruhl) is the son of a Communist Party Supporter Christiane Kerner (Katrin Saß). Soon after Christiane falls into a coma as a result of a heart attack, there is the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the invasion of Western Capitalism into East Germany. Being comatose, Christiane is oblivious of these events as she wakes up in the hospital. Alex, wary of her bed-ridden 'Idealist' mother's reaction to these events that might cause another heart-attack, decides to maintain the illusion of East Germany and the strength of Eastern Socialism. What follows is a series of concoctions devised by Alex with the help of his reluctant sister Ariane (who has exuberantly embraced capitalism and decides to quit her study of Economics to serve burgers and fries at "Burger King') and Christiane's nurse Lara (also Alex's romantic interest). Also party to this deception are Christiane's friends and former colleagues, and Alex's new 'western' friend, Rainer (Alexander Beyer), who also happens to be an aspiring film-maker. Alex and Rainer's shenanigans create some of the most amusing and witty moments in the film.

Alex and the 'Wessie' Rainer
As this deception starts taking a life of his own, we realize that the illusions created by Alex are just Christiane's visions of a successful East German Republic rather than the reality they lived in. In one rather amusing scene, Alex and Ariane try to justify getting 'power of attorney' to their mother's bank account to meet the currency exchange deadline by lying that it's for the new car that they had applied for; Christiane reacts genuinely surprised  - 'In just three years !!'. Wolfgang Becker skillfully manages to capture the contrast between failed Socialism and surging capitalism through the most subtle of details. Instead of being poignant, dramatic or philosophical, movie chooses to use clever comical satire and smart wit.  The movie also tries to examine the superficiality of such ideologies on individual lives and examines the importance of human relations that transcends such ideologies. Good Bye, Lenin ! is a overwhelmingly charming piece of cinema that effortlessly manages to capture the most dramatic situations with poise and a smart sense of humor.