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The Farewell (2000)
"Abschied - Brechts letzter Sommer" (original title)

6.3
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 137 users   Metascore: 58/100
Reviews: 5 user | 26 critic | 6 from Metacritic.com

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Title: The Farewell (2000)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Josef Bierbichler ...
Monica Bleibtreu ...
...
Elfriede Irrall ...
Margit Rogall ...
Ruth Berlau
...
Wolfgang Harich
Rena Zednikova ...
Isot Kilian
Birgit Minichmayr ...
Tilman Günther ...
Offizier der Staatssicherheit
Paul Herwig ...
Manfred Wekwerth
Claudius Freyer ...
Peter Palitzsch
Emanuel Spitzy ...
Jungpionier
Slawomir Holland ...
Offizier der Staatssicherheit
Piotr Kryska ...
Fahrer der Staatssicherheit
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Wolfgang Harig
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Release Date:

14 September 2000 (Germany)  »

Also Known As:

The Farewell  »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$3,016 (USA) (18 January 2002)

Gross:

$10,952 (USA) (15 March 2002)
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1.78 : 1
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Political Stuff
3 September 2002 | by (Chicago United States) – See all my reviews

I enjoyed this film overall, especially in its portrayal of Brecht's efforts to keep harmony within the little harem he'd created for himself. Nonetheless, I have some objections to the political overtones of the film. The film unfortunately reinforces the old anti-communist cliché of life in the DDR ('East Germany') as a nightmarish existence under a police state, and we are introduced to that idea early on when the Stasi (the DDR's FBI) come knocking at the door to inquire about one of Brecht's guests, Wolfgang Harich. And it certainly comes as no surprise to anyone that the Brechts' summer vacation ends with Harich's arrest(moreover, there's the suggestion that, in politics, Brecht's soon-to-end life came down to just that: turning a blind eye to the oppressive character of the DDR).

There's a bit of historical distortion here, however. Harich was active in the SED (the DDR's Communist Party) for a number of years and known to be in opposition to the existing leadership, as he attempted to articulate and rally support for a 'third path' between capitalism and bureaucratic socialism, a so-called 'humane socialism.' He was not arrested by the Stasi at the end of the summer of 1956, but rather in November of that year. What's the dif? Well, in the fall of 1956 there occurred the uprising in Hungary, which eventually took on virulently anti-Soviet overtones, with the consequence that it was interpreted by all the regimes in the 'socialist' bloc as life-threatening. In other words, Harich's arrest was not so much evidence of the DDR's inability to tolerate dissenting ideas as it was a measure of the state of international, geo-political tensions at that time (don't forget, similar things had gone on in the US with the anti-communist witch hunts). In fact, Harich, after his release from prison in 1964, went on to publish and teach in the DDR: he continued to argue for German re-unification under socialist auspices and for greater attention to environmental concerns under socialism; he traveled to the West and always returned to the DDR (though opportunities to 'defect' were not lacking), and, after the collapse of the DDR, refused to testify against those who had imprisoned him in 1956. He remained a life-long proponent of a socialist society and economy in which the human values of friendship and community, solidarity and equality, health and environment, culture and enlightenment would hold sway over the commercialization of all aspects of life that is our fate under capitalism. And he firmly believed that, however warped the socialism of the DDR had been in the past, it contained the seeds for evolving in the right direction.

I also find objectionable the suggestion that Brecht himself was complicit in the DDR's oppressiveness, at least to the extent that he failed to publicly denounce Ulbrecht (the DDR's leader at the time) and his regime. I think it fair to say that someone who objected to many aspects of the DDR regime but still wished to hold on to his influence with the leaders would necessarily walk a dangerous tightrope; and it is no easy matter to judge whether Brecht would have served the cause of humane socialism better had he spoken out more forcefully against Ulbrecht's regime (though, obviously, that would make for better cinema).


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