“Good bye, Lenin!”
R, 121 m
with Daniel BrÂhl, Katrin Sass and Chulpan Khamatova.
Directed by Wolfgang Becker.
Opens tomorrow. In German with English subtitles.
With an interesting concept and careful detail, “Good bye, Lenin!” takes on the daunting task of telling and showing a story before, during and after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany. The film is best described as a dramedy, mixing both dramatic and comedic elements well, but at times it feels uneven, with the dramatic parts coming at the expense of the laughs.
Alex Kerner (Daniel BrÂhl) is a teenager in East Germany before the Berlin Wall has fallen. After his father leaves to flee to the west and to capitalism, his mother Christiane (Katrin Sass) completely embraces socialism. When Alex goes to a demonstration against the government and Christiane sees him getting arrested, she has a heart attack. She survives the ordeal but goes into a coma.
All the while, the political climate of Germany changes and eventually, the Berlin Wall falls. With the fall, a horde of capitalist companies and outsiders flock into East Germany and Alex, along with his sister, revel in consumerism. Alex becomes a satellite dish salesman and his sister a Burger King employee. Alex also begins a charming romance with a nurse who cares for his mother. As the couple shares their first kiss, Christiane wakes up. The doctor tells Alex that she can’t survive another shock. He realizes that she cannot know about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the companies that have taken advantage of this new market.
To ensure that she doesn’t see the truth, Alex rearranges the family’s house, searches for jars from old socialist factories that have since stopped and even makes fake news broadcasts. While Alex builds this false world for his mother, he starts to care for it more than the capitalist system that he has been indulging in.
Clearly, this is a great setup, and the conflict provides for some funny moments. The movie is at its best when Alex has to quickly make up excuses for his suspicious mother. With the combination of old footage and careful shots, “Good bye, Lenin!” remains historically faithful, while simultaneously making good dramatic action. The movie falters a bit when the more serious aspects of family trouble enter the film. Although this is not done badly, it takes away from the great comedy of Alex’s deception.
Ultimately, this film would have been much better if the comedy angle had been emphasized even more and the family drama lessened. Despite this, “Good bye, Lenin!” is a solid film that has plenty of great moments worth watching.