Good Bye Lenin! (2003)

Since her husband left The German Democratic Republic (GDR), Christiane Kerner (performed by Katrin Sass) devoted her life to the Eastern Germany’s welfare and unity. When she saw her son Alex (performed by Daniel Brühl) getting arrested during protests, she suffers a heart attack, faints and goes into a coma for eight months. While she was in coma, everything changes from her entire life in Germany, Erich Honecker quits his mission, the Berlin Wall collapsed, now Alex works for the satellite dish company and her sister Ariane (Maria Simon) drops the college and works in Burger King, which none of them was the integral part of daily life in Eastern Germany 8 months ago. On his speeches, Alex remarks this situation as “Mother slept through the relentless triumph of capitalism.” According to the doctor’s words, any shock could kill Christiane, so Alex’s plan is to convince her that nothing has changed. With the help of his friends Denis (performed by Florian Lukas), Lara (performed by Chulpan Khamatova) and her mother’s “comrade“s, Alex creates an alternative world for mother that the Wall never crumbles.

Throughout the film, several events in a funny way attract attention and making a connection to understand the period before 1989. To convince his mother, Alex creates fake news in low-cost production from Eastern Germany with his talented friend Denis, even they have to claim that the Coca-Cola is a socialist drink after the red flag becomes a Coca-Cola commercial across the window! Alex looks for garbage cans for the old jar to put Spree Pickle in it, in an old house he finds imNU Coffees. Local kids are singing national songs to Alex’s mother. In dramatic scenes, director Wolfgang Becker is also giving a skilled performance, especially in the scene that Ariane talks about seeing their father where she works. When Alex asking about what she said, she answers: “Enjoy your meal and thank you for choosing Burger King! “This scene is also important to show the effects of separation of a family and the nation’s transformation. In the last half hour of the film, the dose of dramatic scenes increasing and there is an achievement in connecting these scenes without fluency problems.

During the film, there is also a nostalgic atmosphere about the concept’s in Eastern Germany socio-cultural life. Sigmund Jahn, cosmonauts, Spree pickles, imNU Coffees, Trabant cars arouse an interest to that period and the film successfully imagines in mother’s statements, pastel colors, and old communist-style buildings. Actually, after some scenes of the film, the audience might think that the Eastern Germany was better before reunification. With the humor and compassion in it, the film makes it comprehensible these feelings. To me, it is also the success of the film.

As the film continues, Alex is feeling pressured to sustain this situation and the world he is trying to create for her mother, his thoughts and his feelings are evolving during that time. By this pressure; from his childhood to adulthood, he is questioning his ideals, his relationship with his country, mother and father, Sigmund Jahn and cosmonauts, concepts about GDR, and on the last scenes of film it is becoming much more visible. Along the film, he is also evolving and creating a basis for his thoughts and on his last actions he is creating the GDR on his dreams. He is also living a settlement with his country and he is giving a farewell to his mother and country in the way he dreamed and wanted, with showing respect to noble ideals and people. Another example can be seen on one of the latest news videos, the presenter says that the desperate Germans are running to the Eastern Germany. This scene is an observable example of the mission is not just only save her mother’s life, but also keeping alive the great ideals of socialism, helpfulness and solidarity.

Successful composer Yann Tiersen (known for Amelie) is making a spectacular job on films soundtrack. On balancing the film’s funny and dramatic and increasing the effects on emotional scenes, he is making the competent moves and his music is matching on film’s minimalist language, modest but powerful.

In conclusion, “Good Bye Lenin” is a solid and well-intentioned film. With its balanced film language on funny and dramatic scenes, the success of showing GDR period’s atmosphere and the message of hope about humanity in a skilled way.

Ege Ersoy

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