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:: Goodbye, Lenin

The Berlin Wall collapsed in 1989, capitalism won and the borders of Germany became one. Enter Ikea, Burger King, BMW; exit Spreewald pickles, daggy clothes and Trabant cars. Within nine months, vestiges of socialist East Germany had all but disappeared, in its wake, a dramatically different East Germany emerged.

It was definitely a wrong time for diehard socialist, Christiane (Katrin Sass), to wake up from a coma. Christiane had collapsed after inadvertently witnessing her son, Alex (Daniel Brühl), being arrested by police at a protest march. Now, warned by the doctors that any excitement by could be fatal for her weak heart, Alex frantically races against time to recreate the old Ossi (East German) decor in the house, and desperately tries to keep his mother in the dark about the fall of the German Democratic Republic.

Alex’s ruses include decanting Polish gherkins into Spreewald jars, rummaging through rubbish for discarded Ossi goods, and enlisting the help of his sister, Ariane (Maria Simon), her Wessi boyfriend, Rainer (Alexander Beyer), his girlfriend, Lara (Chulpan Khamatova) and the neighbours to lie about the truth. However, the biggest talent to his complicated schemes, is his co-worker, Denis (Florian Lukas), a cable technician and budding film maker who puts his acting, directorial and editing skills to good use in rewriting history. When Christiane catches sight of the Coca-Cola advertisement outside her window, they fake a television news report that Coca-Cola was a GDR invention stolen by the West and only recently returned to the GDR. Each inexplicable incident that Christiane stumbles upon is explained away by an even more incredulous news report.

The faked reports are absolutely hilarious; it is a satirical take on the misinformation and manipulation of images and social agenda in Communist media, but also at the media in general. It is ironical that as the pretence becomes increasingly harder to maintain, Alex becomes more determined and passionate to recreate the ideal socialist state that never existed, whereas previously he dismissed his mother’s idealism.

Good Bye Lenin can be criticised for being soft and nostalgic on the GDR, but even that can forgiven because the film is immensely appealing – it is both at once funny and heartwarming. The meticulous research that went into the film accurately captures this momentous period of Germany’s history but it is also a touching tale of a young man’s love of his mother. Good Bye Lenin is a labour of love by director, Wolfgang Becker and scriptwriter, Bernd Lichtenberg.