Good Bye, Lenin! (Germany ; 121 min.)


directed by: Wolfgang Becker
starring: Daniel Brühl; Katrin Saß; Chulpan Khamatova
Good Bye, Lenin!
 
Bob says (in response to Janet): "I was very surprised by GOOD BYE, LENIN. I’d seen the trailer a couple of times, and had laughed all the way through it both times, so I went to see the film expecting a comedy, but that’s not the way I ended up seeing it at all. There’s some humor in there (most of which is right there in the trailer), but for the most part it’s a very melancholy film. And I thought it worked very well on that level."
 

Janet says: "In this worthwhile film, a young East German man hides the unification of
Germany in order to protect his fragile Socialist mother from dying of shock. Like most films that work the premise of going to any length to shield someone from the truth, the farcical aspect gets stretched pretty thin at times, and the audience spends half the time asking, 'Why go to all this trouble?' (It looks like another film of this type is on its way to our theaters, in which a young mother pretends to her son that he has a
father when he really doesn't.)

"Focusing on plausibility will ensure that you're dissatisfied with this one. But the ruse accounts for only about a third of the film's real content. Towards the end of the film you get the sense that Alex has concocted his elaborate fraud not for his mother's sake but in order to save his own pride in being East German and Socialist. It seems that in the rush for more freedom, wealth, variety, and consumer goods, no one else around him asks the question, 'Is the West's way really better?'

"Much of GOOD BYE, LENIN!is intended to be funny, and some of the humor may fall short for North Americans. In order to convince his mother that nothing has changed, Alex goes on a search for the unattractive clothing and inferior food brands he and his neighbors have been all too happy to discard. While I may have been slow to pick up the contrasts, an East German audience would probably be howling as each unstylish T-shirt and bag of inferior coffee is revealed. The subtitles don't seem to translate the
jokes precisely enough, either. I would have loved to have a go at them---AFTER they were translated into English, of course!

"I started taking the film more seriously, by the way, as I realized how top-notch the acting is. Alex Kerner is played by a real cutie, Daniel Bruhl---I think of him as the German Jake Gyllenhaal. The mother, Katrin Sass, is wonderful too, especially when you realize that she's spent most of the movie bedridden, acting only with her face. And the family actually looks alike! Except for the sister, Maria Simon, who has fat lips when the
rest have thin, and also doesn't have the acting chops of the rest of the cast.

"I'm liking this one more and more as I write and think about it. It may not be top of your list with so many good things out now, but do keep it in mind as a possibility. 4 cats"

 
Bruce says: "From August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall – 96 miles of concrete topped with barbed wire – was a symbol of the Cold War. The Wall divided families and created two disparate economies based on different ideologies. The building of the Wall created many problems. What few people think about is that he tearing down of the Wall created problems, too. GOOD BYE LENIN! is the second film (the first was BERLIN BLUES) I’ve seen about the fall of the Berlin Wall and how it affected Berlin residents in different ways.

"Alex’s mother Christiane (Kathrin Sass) raised her children by herself after her husband defected to the West while on a business trip. She was a devoted Party (Communist Party) member, believing that socialist/communist ideals were the key to a better world. Just prior to the demise of the Wall, Christiane has an attack and is hospitalized in a coma. By the time she awakens Germany is no longer divided. Alex (Daniel Bruhl), fearing that knowledge of the reunification of Germany would be detrimental to his mother’s health (it might even kill her) decides it is best to keep the news from her. What evolves is a very funny series of smoke screens, tricks and camouflages that Alex employs to serve his mission.

"When the Wall comes down there is a flood of capitalist products into East Germany. Items that were staples for the proletariat soon are forgotten amid the competition of more glamorous fare. To fool his mother, Alex must rummage through trash barrels to find old product labels that he can attach to the new brands. He must also create news that makes sense in an East German context. Alex and a friend of his from work set up a fake newsroom and create news tapes with a camcorder. The tapes Alex takes to his mother’s room where he sneakily plays them on a hidden VCR.

"That anyone in all of Germany could survive more than a few hours without knowing the wall had come down is stretching the viewer’s imagination. It would be akin to finding someone in New York who had not heard of 9/11 by 9/14. Alex insists that all his mother’s friends and relatives must conspire to keep the historic facts hidden.

"Daniel Bruhl is an actor to watch. He is sensitive and intelligent. He also appears in the upcoming THE EDUKATORS where he becomes an 'accidental terrorist.' GOOD BYE LENIN! is a sweet film. It makes us realize how closely we cling to our values and our realities, even when there is no longer a practical need. 3.5 cats