Published Mar 01, 2004Good Bye, Lenin is a funny and touching story about an East German family at the time of the Berlin Wall's collapse. Since the defection of his father, Alex's (Daniel Brühl) mother (Katrin Sass) has been a model citizen, proudly embracing and espousing the socialist ideology even as political dissent grows in the streets and in her own house. Shortly before reunification, however, she falls into a coma and when she wakes up months later, Alex is told that any kind of shock or surprise might kill her. Alex then attempts to hide from his mother all evidence of capitalism's triumph over East Germany, spinning a complex web of lies and deception that slowly suck in all of their family, friends and neighbours.
This film uses a small, personal story beautifully to explore this huge moment in history, showing the complexities of post-reunification East Berlin. While the youth rush headlong from state-run universities and companies into more lucrative jobs in the burgeoning industries of fast food and satellite television, the older generation finds it more difficult to adjust and are quite willing to indulge their nostalgia to play along with Alex's charade.
Director Wolfgang Becker (Life is All You Get) does a wonderful job of intimating the historical context with a backdrop of archival news footage, while always keeping the family story at the forefront. The film has a light, humorous touch that borders on the absurd, at times, but somehow never it loses its emotional grounding. (Seville)