GOODBYE LENIN! – 2003
Bavaria Film International
Director: Wolfgang Becker
This genuinely charming movie stars the handsome, and talented, Daniel Brühl, as Alex. He’s the son of Christiane (Katrin Sass – who doesn’t really look old enough to be his Mam), though it is implied that she was taken advantage of by the absent father who fled ‘West’. Alex daydreams occasionally about the Da, usually imagining him very rich and driving a huge Merc. Said Father turns up in the course of the action, and while well-off[ish], isn’t super-rich. I don’t know which side of the Wall the makers come from, but this is a quite sharp point, the Eastern media tell the populace that the West is US-occupied, poor and backward: meanwhile everybody really thinks that ‘Wessies’ have money squirting out their ears.
The comedy consists in the fact that some days before The [Berlin] Wall comes down Christiane has a heart attack, and is hospitalised. She sees her son taking part in a protest march, mainly about the fact that the Wall is still standing, he is struck by an ‘Ossie’ cop. Her response has partly to do with the fact that, as a True Believer, she thought that such brutality only happened in the oppressed West.
While she is in hospital, seen as ‘state-of-the-art’ modern, there’s no ‘Ostalgia’ but no denegation of the ‘system’ either – the Wall is broken down. Alex and his techie-nerd friend Denis (Florian Lukas) conspire, when his mother
is released from hospital, with the warn-ing that a shock, or even mild surprise, could kill her, to pretend that the ‘East’ (GDR – German Democratic Republic) still exists. It gets harder and harder by the hour, even foodstuffs are dumped, and Alex has to hoke about in garbage to find the bottles and labels from the old days. Fortunately for him the ‘old days’ were not so long ago though his mother was in hospital for months after the Wall came down.
Fortunately the taste of the food is unchanged (possibly another indication that not everything ‘Ossie’ was questionable.) This is acceptable now, but fifteen years ago when this movie was made it was seriously ‘pushing the envelope’ to even hint at such a matter. Alex gets away with a lot, his friend Denis making videos of fake television news items and delivering them in a dreadful plasticky suit presumably of the sort worn by ‘Eastern’ media persons, which they play to his mother. She, inevitably, learns how to use the channel changer and, becomes very confused by what she sees.
They ‘lose’ the implement.
As she gets less fragile, she decides to have a wander outside, and is very confused by what she sees. There are ‘Western’ cars, clothes, and people: one piece of furniture, about to be moved into their block of flats, has an image of the Sacred Heart sitting on a shelf. She asks a young man moving this furniture where he comes from, and he answers “Wurtemburg”, which borders the Rhine. She is totally confused at this, but is returned to the hospital. Alex decides that the news film she views must be doctored. He and Denis show her the breaking down of the Wall – but imply it was Wessies escaping into East Germany that was happening. This stretched one viewers credibility somewhat; it is doubtful if there was much in the way of graffiti on the eastern side of the Wall. But the Western side was heavily graffiti’d. She swallows the notion that the crowds running away from the Wall westwards were actually fleeing eastwards. And the people from, for instance, Wurtemburg are refugees from the benighted West.
She dies shortly after this, Daniel Brühl manages to look simultaneously businesslike and ‘little-boy-lost’-like (like most adults, in a similar situation I assume; you wouldn’t mind a “wee greet”. But matters have to be taken in hand…).
This is a lovely, funny, humane film, see it, you’ll have a lot of laughs, a wee sniffle (or two). For Gay men there is also the prospect of seeing Daniel Brühl in his longish black gunks, (underpants, for the uncultured) he has smooth pale skin and slender, but athletic body. Don’t cheat and flick through the DVD just to see it. Anyway, it’s worth the wait.