Movie Review: Goodbye Lenin

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Wolfgang Becker's Goodbye Lenin is a superbly crafted film from Germany making the last days of the former DDR into a time capsule, - especially for the mother of Alexander Kerner (Daniel Brühl) who has been in a coma for eight months before the Berlin wall was torn down in 1989. News of one more dramatic event is sure to put Christine Kerner (Katrin Sass) out of the picture forever. Alex doesn't want this, having endured his mother's silence when his father abandoned them year's before. So he arranges his mother's room just as she had it eight months before, searching for grocery items that can no longer be found in stores, and making videos of news from the old government with his workmate Denis (Florian Lukas) from the cable company. The task of recreating the political and cultural life of East Germany is a welcome challenge for Denis who knows classic world cinema such as Stanley Kubrik's 2001 and tries to make art cinema out of his home spun commercial wedding films.

Goodbye Lenin is reminiscent of Lasse Hallstrom's My Life as a Dog. Recall the boy with a sick mother who thinks about what happened to the first dog sent into outer space. Likewise, young Alex wonders how the East German cosmonauts felt up there, but more importantly the John Blund doll who went with them. Alex's mother makes herself useful during this time after she recovers from the loss of her husband, writing letters about the annoyances of the west and their ridiculous products - and she is commended by the socialist party. Ten years later, during a peaceful demonstration, Alex is arrested and upon seeing her son taken away, she falls into a coma.

Becker's film is full of ingenious moments of cinema, excellent timing, and inspirational touches. Outer space serves as a metaphor for the new East Germany that ends its isolation and learns to meet the world through satellite dishes, commercialism, travel. Alex makes his first trip to the west - to Berlin. In the new, improved, and united Germany, borders have lost their meaning, although pickles coffee and strawberry preserves will never taste as good as the old generic brands. Historical documentary footage is juxtaposed with the humorous updates in automobiles, fashion and furniture. It is not clear that the older Germans think life has improved but young people are thrilled with the new clothing, western music and Burger King where Alex's sister works. Displaced Lenin and Marx statues make way for Coca-Cola and IKEA. German cosmonauts resort to driving taxis and children call space travelers astronauts. The tattered red star in the production credits not only symbolizes the end of an era but the beginning of globalization for the old DDR.

For Movie Magazine, This is Moira Sullivan Stockholm SWEDEN
More Information:
Goodbye Lenin
Germany - 2003