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Contemporary comedies rarely stretch themselves beyond a bickering romantic couple or a bickering couple and a bucket of bodily fluids, which makes the ambition and intelligence of Goodbye, Lenin! not simply entertaining but downright refreshing. The movie starts in East Germany before the fall of communism; our hero, Alex (Daniel Bruhl), describes how his mother (Katrin Sass), a true believer in the communist cause, has a heart attack when she sees him being clubbed by police at a protest. She falls into a coma for eight months--during which the Berlin Wall comes down. When she awakens, her fragile health must avoid any shocks, so Alex creates an illusive reality around his bedridden mother to convince her that communism is still alive. Goodbye, Lenin! delicately balances wry satire with its rich investment in the lives of Alex, his mother, and other characters around them.
On the DVD: Though the DVD extras for Goodbye Lenin! include a detailed featurette on the digital effects used in the movie (particularly intriguing because they had to be completely invisible--many viewers won't realize there were digital effects until they see this featurette) and a convivial cast commentary (in German with English subtitles) with Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sass, and Alexander Beyer, the star of the DVD is director Wolfgang Becker himself. Not only is his commentary rich with historical information and thoughtful notes about the making of the movie, for the deleted scenes (including two lovely scenes that expand on the relationship between Alex and his girlfriend Lara) he and Tom Tykwer (director of Run Lola Run and part of the X Filme collective that produced Goodbye Lenin!) have an insightful conversation about the editing process, storytelling, and the essence of watching a movie. Utterly fascinating, and invaluable to any aspiring filmmaker. --Bret Fetzer --This text refers to the DVD edition.
"Funny, moving, charming and original" -- Empire --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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The plot is simple but intriguing. It begins in the closing days of the GDR. The narrative is given by Alexander (Daniel Bruhl), who is an unhappy young man living in a claustrophobic system, which he feels is oppressing him. He lives with his mother, a devout communist since her husband fled to the West and sister in a small communist flat in East Berlin. Alexander is involved in a demonstration and gets arrested in front of his mother. The shock of his arrest brings on a heart attack which leaves her in a comma for a number of months. Whilst the mother is in the comma the GDR collapses, the wall comes down, western goods and eventually money flood into the East, the sister finds a West German boyfriend, the family flat gets a western make over and many peoples lives change. When the mother awakens, the doctors are afraid a shock may kill her, so being a devout communist and fearing finding out there is no GDR any more, Alexander decides to keep what has happened secret from his mother, with hysterical consequences.
Whilst the film is humorous it is also quite a sad and reflective film. It shows that not everything changed for the best and all things western had their personal and societal costs. The tension between East and West Germans, which I felt when I lived in Wurzburg in 1990 and Luneburg in 1992, comes across brilliantly. The characterisations used in the film are all sublime. The cost to East German society is left wide open so all can see in terms of, unemployment, alcoholism and the consequences for the family of an escapee to the West. I actually use this film in my USA International Relations classes, to show students that not everything was bad behind the Iron Curtain and that there was a severe societal cost to the wall coming down and the westernisation process.
I think this film is sublime representation on life in an Eastern Bloc country and how the country changed due to westernisation. It is a comedy but it also shows the negative side to all the changes that happened in 1989 and 1990. I think this is the best German comedy I have seen in many years. My version had great English subtitles.
Many have commented on the comedic elements of this film. For sure there are some good funny moments, but I felt the film only came into its own halfway through, once the premise of the mother being nursed after waking from her coma had been set. But the more I watched the movie, the more I came to the conclusion that it's not really a comedy at all; rather, it's a family drama played out in historic times. I came also to understand more how so many Germans loved it for it showed how the unification underlined that not all the West was good and not all the East was bad.
There are some problems with the plot. For example, would the unwanted and unfashionable furniture placed on the street really still be there eight months later? But, as with the novels of Dickens or Trollope, such inconvenient necessities are subject to the greater importance of the developing drama.
Finally, why is this DVD only fit for those aged fifteen and over to watch?
Son Alex is taking part in a demonstration against the Berlin Wall when he gets arrested.
Mother and staunch Communist Christiane is on her way to receive an award for her services to the German Democratic Republic when she witnesses his arrest. She has a heart attack and falls into a coma lasting several weeks.
In the intervening period the Berlin Wall is torn down.
When she finally emerges from her coma, the hospital authorities advise her children that the slightest shock might kill her. Knowing her political beliefs, the children decide that they cannot possibly divulge the fact that the Berlin Wall has come down... And so begins the elaborate pantomime of pretending that nothing has changed.
This is the comic premise behind the film and it works well... up to a point... with added anti-communist aberrations popping up to test the ingenuity of the two doting children. However, in comedy terms the film begins to flag towards the end.
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