Good Bye, Lenin! Reviews
In 1989, East German teenager Alex (Daniel Bruhl) feels liberated when the Berlin Wall comes down. His mother, however, is a staunch Communist, who would balk at the thought of westernisation. Just before the collapse of the wall, she has a heart attack and falls into a coma. When she awakens 8 month later and Germany now reunited as a country, Alex along with his older sister are advised by doctors to protect her fragile condition from any form of stress. As a result, they fabricate news bulletins and information to dupe their recuperating mother into believing German reunification never actually happened.
With a music score by Yann Tiersen, who done the wonderful soundtrack to the 2001 French film "Amelie", you'd be forgiven for having similar feelings to that film while watching this. It's not just the music that they have in common though. They also share an inventive and highly original approach. This may not contain the fantasy elements of "Amelie" but it's delivered with such an offbeat creativity that it could hold it's own against (another notable director) Jean-Pierre Juenet's aforementioned delight. It has a great mix of humour and pathos with scenes of such tragic sadness combined with a wonderful lightness of touch and sharp observational humour. Despite the title of the film and the political setting of the story, this is essentially a coming-of-tale and less of a commentary on the demise of communism in East Germany. The fall of the Berlin wall serves only as a backdrop to the maturing of the young protagonist. So as not to ostracise his audience writer/director Becker wisely and cleverly, doesn't side with either East German communism or West German capitalism but instead, skilfully crafts a bittersweet satire and nostalgic tale of life from both sides of the country. He's also helped immeasurably by two emotionally understated performances from his lead actors; Daniel Bruhl and Katrin Saas.
I was aware of this film when it was released but it should never have taken me as long as it has to get around to viewing it. Now, I'm just glad and hope that others don't make the same mistake of ignoring this profound and poignant pleasure.
In 1990, to protect his fragile mother from a fatal shock after a long coma; a young man must keep her from learning that her beloved nation of East Germany as she knew it has disappeared.
I know it takes a lot to tempt non-addicts into the cinema to see a foreign language film, but this is one that is worth it, honest. An improbably yet believable and endearing storyline, Goodbye Lenin gives you history, irresistible and original humour, and depth of human emotion, underplayed as in all good European cinema, that leaves you feeling more satisfied than if it were only for laughs.
East Germany, shortly before the Berlin Wall goes down. A young man's mother has a heart attack and wakes up from a after the wall has come down. To prevent further shocks, her son and his friends arrange her flat to make her believe nothing has changed.
Goodbye Lenin! is a triumph on so many levels, with the main - and most important - one being a complete surprise; the film, by the end, delivers an emotional wallop in the most subtle of ways, thanks to the brilliant screenplay, excellent direction and the perfectly nuanced performances from the two main characters, the son (the superb Daniel Bruhl, who reminded me of Jake Gyllenhaal) and the mother (the sublime Kathrin Sass, who reminded me of Patricia Clarkson). The entire movie is inspired, and I especially liked how the mother is never depicted as a victim, although she spends nearly the entire movie bed-ridden. This is yet another coup, in a movie that is literally filled with them.
A beautiful film, and a valuable one.
I enjoyed this movie. I could see why Alex would behave like that, although it seemed silly to keep it going so long.
It's as if there's a far more important theme to tackle other than socialist intricacies. But of course, there is: An enduring story of a son's love to his mother devoid of any conditionals.
After his socialist mother (Katrin Sass in an impressive performance) has awakened from an 8-month comma due to a heart attack, Alex (played by Daniel Bruhl, whom you may recognize as Frederick Zoller in the later Tarantino film "Inglourious Basterds"), who have learned from the doctor that his mother shouldn't be shocked or hooked into excitement in any way whatsoever as it may result to complications, is eager to keep her home. But complications is never just a health dilemma. The Berlin Wall has fallen. It's now one Germany, and the stocks of Spreewald gherkins has cruised into scarcity. Her mother's reality has turned into a unified land filled with alien capitalism.
He faced the situation with a calm demeanor and absurdist resolute, and helped by his friend and aspirant filmmaker Denis (Florian Lukas, who's like a cross between Robert Carlyle and a younger Ed Harris), decided to re-create GDR in ingenious kinds of ways as to prevent her mother from having the heart-thumping revelation of her life. A well-intended deception heightened by comedy. A 'comedy' that surely roots out from social idealism (the mother) suppressed by empirical determination.
Director Wolfgang Becker directed these sequences with uncommon energy and quirks that the first hour of the film flowed so effortlessly with quick pace, ease and story-telling delight. Yet from those elements mainly conceived from clever concepts and scenarios, "Good Bye, Lenin!" is still focused in its human drama.
It's less a politically-toned film than it is a penetrating study of connection (Alex's family), re-connection (the father sub-plot) and disconnection (from A horrid emotional past and the attachment to the GDR). Of course, from the point of view of a German who have experienced the social atmosphere of East/West Germany, "Good Bye, Lenin!" is mainly affecting due to the countless nostalgic references to olden times and the euphoric destruction of separatist sentiments. But from those way outside looking in (like me), what's very special with this film is its balance of happiness and melancholy by way of how it highlights the fun of liberty and the anguish of mistakes.
"Good Bye, Lenin!" is very eloquent on all sides, capturing the essential 'celebratory' mood of reunified Germany and the irony of the countless ruins and how it tries to accommodate its reverberated surroundings in desperate vain, especially how the wrecked Lenin statue hanging below a helicopter seems to communicate something to Alex's mother (one of the many great scenes in the film) as if asking for forgiveness or asking for her hand and saying, 'my child, my deeply socialist child, come with me'.
From its shifting pace to comic moments and times of tears, "Good Bye, Lenin!" has been strongly consistent with the entirety of its delivery and it has rendered a political reverie-turned reality into a convincing world of varied emotions and where euphemistic acceptance is a possibility. And moreover, departing from the complexities, the film is, simply put, a lasting love letter to all mothers who have loved their children unlike any other.
Ahem. While the plot is clearly unrealistic, the biting look at East vs West German idealsim and socialism is not. It gives a very intimate look into a Germany I might not have otherwise known, in a time of great upheaval and renewal. Our hero is perfectly set for the times and his story is one that resonates on many levels from personal to moral. Well-written and well-acted, it's worth your while to find this somewhere.