Good Bye Lenin! (2003) Poster

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8/10
Socially conscious black comedy
itamarscomix24 May 2005
'Good Bye, Lenin!' is a fascinating German film that was for unclear reasons denied a best foreign film nomination in the recent Oscars, but I consider it one of the best films I've seen this year. 'Good Bye, Lenin!' is an entertaining and surreal black comedy, that doesn't really stand the test of logic and reality, but beneath the surface it's really a very socially conscious film, that gets across very well the atmosphere and problems of the post-communist East Germany.

The story is of Alex, whose mother, a devoted member of the Communist Party, suffers a heart attack which sends her into a coma - through which she sleeps throughout the months of revolution and the fall of the communist regime. When she awakes, the doctors warn Alex not to cause his mother any anxiety or excitement; therefore, he goes to ludicrously immense lengths to keep her convinced that communism in East Berlin is still alive. Not much of it, once again, stands the test of reason, but it's incredibly witty and entertaining, and manages, throughout, to get across some powerful statements.

'Good Bye, Lenin!' is both fun and important, a film which I recommend to everyone. Don't be afraid of European cinema; even though the film might be difficult to come by, it's very rewarding and well worth your time.
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Hello, Masterpiece!
Cowman19 April 2004
The destruction of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was a historically significant event not just for the people of Germany, but also for much of the rest of the world. Aside from reuniting two vastly different political systems, this remarkable incident marked a turning point for the capitalist uprising occurring within many of the other socialist states. Filmmakers worldwide have since explored the causes and effects of the German Reunification, and even today, they continue to bring new insight and a fresh perspective to an event that occurred nearly fifteen years ago. Wolfgang Becker's GOOD BYE, LENIN! is among the most recent of such films, and probably among the best of them as well.

Rather than charging head-on at a specific political standing, GOOD BYE, LENIN! uses carefully controlled satire to poke fun at the absurdities of both communist and capitalist societies. And despite criticism from gung-ho supporters of either system, Becker is careful not to take sides or appear sympathetic toward any political institution. Instead of concentrating exclusively on the governmental changes of the newly reunified Germany, he wisely opts to narrow his focus on the effects that these changes have on one particular Berlin family. By doing this, Becker is able to show the challenges of adapting to a new, unfamiliar way of life in a context that is much more personal and easier for the viewer to identify with.

The humor in GOOD BYE, LENIN! is plentiful, and Becker takes advantage of every possible opportunity to fit in a comedic moment. Even during the most somber parts of the story, the film never lets go of its astute sense of humor; and because the humor is always thought-provoking and cleverly executed, it never feels forced or gratuitous. The running joke about Alex's unremitting quest for Spreewald pickle jars and the scene where Alex's bedridden mother is perplexed by the Coca-Cola banner hanging from the building across from hers' are brilliant examples of the movie's sharp, yet sensitive wit. Aside from just being funny in themselves, these bits work doubly well because of their uses of symbolism and metaphor. The Spreewald pickles, now impossible to find because of the fall of the GDR, are representative of the `good old days' when Alex was familiar with the ways of his country and when his mother was in good health. His almost frantic search for them shows his longing to return to the way things used to be. Likewise, the unfurling of the Coca-Cola banner is the perfect embodiment of all the capitalist changes occurring within the new Germany. Once you begin to see the Coca-Cola and Burger King logos, you know that capitalism has truly grabbed hold and that there is now no escaping its embrace, for better or for worse.

GOOD BYE, LENIN! makes great use of this type of imagery to emphasize the country's transformation and to provide insight to the emotions of the main characters. A most notable instance of this is the scene where Alex's mother, a staunch supporter of socialism, finally leaves her home to a very different East Germany than the one she remembered. She then looks to the sky and sees a helicopter airlifting a statue of Lenin off the top of a building. As Lenin is being hauled away, his outstretched arm seems to be reaching out to her, as if he's calling out for her to rescue him and his ideals, and restore her beloved country.

Alex's complex lies and meticulous attempts at preserving the past for his mother are innocent enough at first, but eventually they begin to take on a life of their own. The lengths he goes through to maintain the atmosphere of a bygone era and keep his mother happy are indeed funny, but they are also very tragic as well. Though the lies do work temporarily to keep his mother oblivious to the events outside of her apartment, they also plunge Alex and his family into such a deep pool of deception that they eventually lose their closeness with one another. The stress of keeping up the façade becomes unbearable for Alex, and at one point he even wishes his mother were dead.

Other humor was purely cultural, and probably only appreciable by people who have actually experienced the Reunification. I noticed this only because of the native German family sitting in front of me at the theater, laughing in unison at dialogue and images that didn't look to me like they were meant to be interpreted as humorous. But still, even though the older generations of German people are likely to get more out of this movie, it is still a hilarious, heartfelt, and incredibly rewarding experience for people of all cultures and ethnicities.
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9/10
Excellent film
mike-12302 October 2004
I didn't have too many expectations for this film. My partner pitched it to me as a comedy, and I hadn't seen the trailer in a while so I went into thinking that's all it would be. Instead, it really was a sublimely sophisticated film.

I had the good fortune to see East Berlin first in July 1989 (there was *ZERO* hint that the wall would be down in 4 months) and then in February 1990. It was an amazing before and after, and I thought this film captured this very well. As a visitor to the East for several months that year, this film really brought back to me the East European Quiet Revolution when everything really did change.

The characters going through that change are of course an allegory for the changes all around them- '40 years gone! They sold us up river!' says an old man who represents those who 'lost' in the reunification contrasted to those who won-the youth. Similarly, the contrast of personal re-unification (the children and their father) vs that of the east and west is a wonderfully treated theme through the film…. And of course lies. Lies to comfort us, lies to deal with other lies. A very, very touching film.
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10/10
The charming social construction of history
jrichardstevens24 May 2004
I found this movie to be a charming film and very engaging on both a personal and a social level. The story is drawn from the lives of an East Berlin family struggling to cope with the changing world as their way of life is challenged. The father, having reportedly left the family for the West years before, is not present and the mother replaces her spousal needs with the love of her country and its way of life.

The premise of the film centers on the frail mother, who falls into a coma mere weeks before the fall of the Berlin wall. Eight months later, she regains consciousness, and her children are told not to excite her, lest she have another episode.

Bound by their love of their mother, the son and daughter seek to shield her from the changes in her culture. In their apartment, they recreate the conditions of the world she remembers, right down to the labels on the food they serve her. As the mother comes into contact with the inevitable disparities between her new world and the one she remembers, the son compounds the deception, eventually creating false newscasts to explain the phenomena she witnesses in a manner more consistent with her core assumptions of life.

The film is touching, tender, funny and dramatic. However, the elements that really drew me in were the historical construction and the plot device of deception.

The historical construction was the way in which the son, through his efforts to explain the increasingly Westernized elements of German society his mother observes, recreates East Germany as the country he could have faith in. As he recreates history to incorporate current events, he softens the harshness of the party rhetoric, reforming the socialistic ideal closer to the compassion for the masses and the acceptance of the 'enemy' capitalists. The film makes ample use of actual news footage in his narrative, footage that adds sharp contrast to Alex's version.

This contrast is a striking reminder about how much of our social conscience is constructed through the lenses we choose to observe reality and recall history. Alex had quickly come to give up his socialist devotion (though the film does make it clear form the beginning that the adult Alex was already disenchanted with it). But as Alex fabricates news reports and artifacts for the illusion he's providing his mother, he actually appears to be inventing a system of socialism that he can feel proud of. It's almost as if in trying to console his mother, he connects to her by reinterpreting her world into something he can interface with, building common ground.

How much of our own social history is constructed in this manner? We champion our own system of free market democracy as the 'city on the hill' for other nations. We raise up the virtues of our freedom and individuality (and there are indisputably many virtues), while ignoring some of the more sorted historical results it has yielded. We choose which portions of our history we celebrate, and which portions we condemn to academic obscurity.

Americans use history to construct our national mythology. Like Homer and Virgil before us, we compose idealized stories of virtue and create narratives that resound with the language of legendary epics. And because of this mythology building exercise, we often fail to see our own cultural reality for the flawed imperfect collection of group effort that it is. That's why we feel so betrayed when our leaders make simple human mistakes or we see representatives of our culture participating in a manner that runs counter to our values.

No where is this phenomenon so pronounced as when it comes to our national leaders. We look back on our founding fathers and through our myth building, elevate them to superhuman stature. Our high school students may not remember what wars Washington fought in or what political initiatives he took but they remember that he cut down a (fictional) cherry tree and refused to lie about it.

We remember the elegant words that our predecessors crafted without remembering the pain and suffering their efforts exacted from other people. We remember that Thomas Jefferson advocated 'Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political …' while conveniently forgetting that he was ambivalent at best to the degree that freedom extended to those in a state of slavery. We forget that founding father quarreled, that at times they misrepresented each other's interest to foreign leaders and that on occasion may have even tried to kill one another.

The founding fathers we remembered were well educated, civil and wise.

Against this tapestry of myth we watch contemporary politics play out, trying desperately to spin events into frameworks that reinforce our desires for justice and virtue.

We are all Alex, trying to reconstruct a new view of history that makes us more proud of where we come from. We invent and reinvent history to suit our needs and like Alex, do so in the name of providing a safe environment (or better way of life) for others.
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7/10
A beautiful portrayal of family and politics
The_Void9 December 2004
The concept of this movie, which is that a young man has to do all in his power to stop his mother who is recovering from a heart attack learning of what's happened to Germany while she was in a coma, is absolutely delicious, but it's a premise that could easily go wrong. However, I'm pleased to report that it certainly didn't go wrong, and through interesting characterisation, a great script and some thought-provoking ideas; Good Bye, Lenin! is a winner all the way! An excellent ensemble gives way to a story that has a lot of heart, and one that makes it's points - both politically and otherwise - without the use of a sledgehammer. Good Bye, Lenin! is one of those films that is what you make of it; on the one hand, it's a touching and entertaining story of a boy's journey into adulthood and his love for his mother, but on the other hand; it's a biting political satire that intertwines themes of how our perception of certain truths can impact our lives.

Daniel Brühl, a young Spanish talent, takes the lead role as 'Alex', the young man at the centre of the tale. Through his subtle acting, Daniel is able to capture the determination and adoration that epitomise his character wonderfully. He is joined by the beautiful Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon and Alexander Beyer, who lend support to Brühl, as his girlfriend, sister and sister's boyfriend respectively, along with Kathrin Sass, who takes the central role of the mother recovering from a heart attack. I can't pick a single fault with any one of them. The setting of the fall of the Berlin Wall serves as a great place to set this story, as it allows the film to give a commentary on the changes of Germany's political landscape at the same time as allowing us to take in themes of family, love and the perception of truth that are abundantly clear. There aren't many bad things that I can say about it, and the only one really is that it can be a bit over sentimental at times. On the whole, however, Good Bye, Lenin! is an absolute treat and most certainly one of the better movies to have been released so far this decade.
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8/10
Refreshing
michael_robert_burns6 January 2005
This was a good film, and I think it needed to be made. A way of life disappeared in Europe, perhaps forever, and it seems appropriate that the fall of Communism has thus been documented.

The basic premise of "Goodbye Lenin" is that the young man's mother is in a coma over the months when the Berlin Wall is coming down. She wakes up (oblivious) in united Germany, but as she is so fragile she cannot be allowed to know that everything she held dear has collapsed. What ensues is a comic and moving scenario - her son does his best to pretend that nothing has changed.

Yes, the movie is a little drawn-out. And most of the comedy is lost on non-Germans, or those unaware of the political climate in the region. However, there are clear universal issues to be considered; idealism, hope, family. There is one particular scene which I thought encompassed exactly how the main protagonist feels - he is at a bank trying to change his mother's old East German currency into Deutschmarks but the deadline has passed. He becomes aggravated by the sheep-like behaviour of his peers. After all, this is their culture being crushed by McCapitalism, but their individual vaunting ambition blinds them from doing something about it. Very refreshing to see this on the big screen.

All in all, "Goodbye Lenin" is a nicely-rounded statement of where the European film industry is heading, and it will appeal to most independent-minded people on both an artistic and political level. 8/10.
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8/10
Small but perfectly formed
Asa_Nisi_Masa28 March 2005
Last night I watched it for the second time. I'd seen it at the cinema two years ago, then last night my boyfriend, who hadn't seen it, decided to rent it. I loved it first time round, I loved it second time round, maybe even a tad more than I did originally. With wonderfully engaging characters all round, the film is endowed with a great sense of humour, both visual and verbal (and those Europhobic old Brits keep going on about how the Germans have no sense of humour!), it's socially relevant yet easier to watch than a straight comedy. The script is intelligent yet accessible to anyone, even a shallow teenager with no attention span whatsoever... yet IT is never shallow. And most of all, it's a deeply moving little gem of a film which however never abuses its secure grip on the heart-strings. I could see even my boyfriend was dewy-eyed at some points! And so was I, even more than two years ago. A small but perfectly formed film, it's actually not as small as one might think at first impact. Love (specifically, filial love) is its main theme, treated in a schmaltz-free, fresh, non-superficial and a non-clichéd manner.
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clever and amusing comedy
Buddy-5125 September 2004
Just as Rip Van Winkle slept through the American Revolution and woke up twenty years later to find himself a citizen of a brand new country, so Kathrin Sass, an East German woman, slips into a coma on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall only to wake up eight months later a member of a capitalist society. This is the premise of 'Good Bye Lenin,' a clever and affectionate tale about truth, love and family ties that transcends all national borders and boundaries.

Kathrin, a woman who has dedicated her life to the perpetuation of Communist Party ideology, suffers a major heart attack that plunges her into a comatose state a few months prior to the dissolution of the land she knows as East Germany. While she is 'asleep,' governments tumble, barriers crumble and a whole new tide of Western goods and values comes flooding eastwards to a ravenous, eagerly awaiting public. Then she wakes up. Fearing that the shock of finding such a radically changed world will lead to a second heart attack, her loving son, Alex, devises an elaborate scheme to shield her from the truth and to make her believe that the world she lives in now is the same world she knew eight months before (the basic premise is not that different from the one in 'Jacob the Liar').

'Good Bye Lenin!' is an amusing regional comedy that derives its laughs from two basic sources: the near-slapstick nature of the charade Alex is attempting to perpetrate, and the script's satirical view of a society rushing madly to embrace the joys of unbridled consumerism they have been so long denied. Given its gimmicky premise, 'Good Bye Lenin!' could have emerged as a one-joke comedy were it not for the fine sense of irony and absurdity that writer/director Wolfgang Becker (working with co-writer Bernd Lichtenberg) has brought to the project. In addition, young Daniel Bruhl as Alex and Katrin Sab as Kathrin deliver expert, moving performances that go to the very essence of the mother/child relationship.

I must confess that this film, despite its generally upbeat tone, brings with it a certain rueful sadness that the filmmakers may not exactly have intended. Could it really have been a mere fifteen years ago that the events depicted in this film actually happened - a mere fifteen years ago that the future of the human race seemed so full of joy, hope and promise? Now, in a post 9/11 world - where sectarian hatred and international terrorism rule the day - this image of people coming together to cast off the shackles of bondage and embrace freedom seems already like a quaint memory from the long distant past. In a strange way, the film has become something of a relic in its own time, outstripped by a world that has long since moved on to bigger and more dire concerns. 'Good Bye Lenin' reminds us of just how long ago and far away the Cold War really was.
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8/10
Funny, Sad, Intelligent ....
CelluloidRehab15 October 2004
This story has it all : family tragedy, growth (from child to adult and even growth as an adult), dealing with political and social change, and romance. I think the story gives one a good idea of just how much change occurred when the Iron Curtain fell over Eastern Europe and the difficulties and opportunities it brought. The story revolves around Alex, his sister and their mother. Their mother has a heart attack and then goes into a coma. During her coma, communism fell and then she wakes up. Advised by her doctor that she cannot take any form of excitement, Alex goes about creating the illusion that communism is alive and well. This often takes a comical twist on the differences between the communist east and capitalist west. There is also the subtle hint of discrimination by both sides against the other. In the end the story is about family and loved ones and what we are willing to do to make those around us happy. Go out and rent this movie.

-Celluloid Rehab
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10/10
Explanation
shmirgel25 January 2005
Today there is no more die Deutsche Demokratische Republik, there's no People's Republic of Bulgaria, no Yugoslavia, no Czeskoslovenska Socialisticka Republika, no USSR... The entire "Progressive World", apparently having reached the final stage of political and social self-actualization, decided there's no more place for it to develop into the material existence, and went altogether into Nirvana. They left a political vacuum, a socio-economic crisis, wars, misery, and all else that many of you remember, while others have just seen on TV.

I am born during the last years of communism, but don't remember much of it. What I clearly remember was the downfall of the system. The crowds, the demonstrations, the blue flags, people crying, singing "Freedom! Freedom! Time is ours! 45 years is enough!". My grandmother took me into her hands, so that two polish photographers took a picture of us (she later on told me), and yes, the day after tomorrow we would live like in a wonderful Hollywood film. We didn't. And my entire generation passed its childhood into a lingering crisis, which broke down the society, the values, the morals, people fled the country, as if it was infected with plague.

Today in the place of die Deutsche Demokratische Republik is Ost-Deutschland. A country, where entire buildings are empty, people having moved to the West. Investors don't chose the Ost for their capitals, they'd rather invest into Czech or Poland, where the workers are as qualified and several times cheaper. Today Bulgaria is slowly improving, and maybe in the next 200 years it will catch up the economic standard of the EU. Yugoslavia was torn by war after war, the Soviet Union collapsed into different countries, which had never been independent, Slovakia broke off from the Czech Republc, in search of its own Moravian identity.

And a dream that came to replace the slavery of oppression and Nazism, and that was meant to continue for a thousand years at least, collapsed under its corruption.

But the memory was fresh. The evils of corruption and concentration camps for political prisoners faded away, and only romanticism remained. Memories of a past that never was, or never should have been, or was, and had to be. Red t-shirts with yellow CCCP written on them became fashionable, referring to communism became a sort of a common identity for Eastern European students in western universities, nostalgia filled the hearts of many, and this was also expressed into the arts.

It was a very sad film. I recommend it to all of you, who remember, and don't remember, who know, and don't know, or would like to know, or don't care about, or whatever. It is not a Hollywood high-budgeted blockbuster. It's far from that, but it's touching, true, amusing, and sad.
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8/10
A surprisingly wonderful film!!
kergillian24 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I was admittedly skeptical - figuring yet another typical German dramatic comedy (and 'German' and 'funny' are two words that don't mix well...) but WOW it was MUCH better than I thought.

The political background remains in the background. This film sets itself historically into a tumultuous time in Germany - Especially East Germany - but the film allows politics to remain on the sidelines. This film is NOT about politics. This film is about love and respect. The love is a love of a son for his mother. A love and respect so deep that he tries to hide the fact that the wall fell, and Germany reunited, from her! Not exactly an easy feat - and he and his aspiring filmmaker friend cleverly fake telecasts (and they are INCREDIBLY clever and funny) to explain some of the 'anomalies' his mother encounters.

This film also explores the relationship between East and West; uses an intensely amusing sense of irony to show a form of reverse capitalism - from the cravings of East German pickles and the hunt for East German groceries, to the story Alex concocts about West German refugees, oppressed under capitalism, fleeing the West and seeking refuge in the comfortable communist East.

Finally, the film explores the growing relationship between Alex and Lara, as they each try to keep the relationship, and each other, in perspective. While Alex would do ANYTHING to protect his mother from harm, Lara is the glue that hold his sanity together,

A WONDERFUL film, I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone. 8/10.
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You need experience for this one!
Leadfoot_vts13 August 2004
I must say, people who haven't lived in one of the socialist countries can watch this movie, but they will never really understand it. Who hasn't personally experienced the fall of socialism, will never understand the mixed emotions that this film reminds viewers from Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and other ex-socialist countries of Eastern and Central Europe - the euphoria of freedom (but also the hardships our countries had to - and still have to - face) and the nostalgia for some aspects of life back then before 1989... So, I must say, I just loved the movie, but not because it is a particularly good one, but because it evokes such powerful emotions out of me. In the end, the protagonist comments, that he will always associate the memory of his mother with the memory of an era and a country that no longer exists. I exactly know what he means... I was 9 when socialism fell in my home country, so I belong to the last age group that experienced life in the socialist era. I am one of the last ones who remember what was life like then - and I don't regret that at all. In fact, that is a really emotional memory that I have, and I am proud that my country helped to remove the first brick from the Wall... Finally, let me recommend a similar film from Hungary - Moszkva tér (Moscow square)...
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10/10
Another side of communism everyone should know about
perica-4315120 July 2018
Communism has a bad rep sometimes. Yes, there was fear and state control and all the bad stuff, but in all honesty, the counterparts of the Cold War had imperialism (culminating in the german version of hell from the second world war) and racism and other ills - the first black person to space was sent by the Soviets, as well as the first man and first woman, fact worth thinking about.

But there is another, gentler side to the regime, in which many people believed and had some legitimate if naive reasons to do so. This movie is a sincere portrayal of Ostalgie, a nostalgic love of the communism, notwithstanding its faults. A version of it exists in many ex communist countries, from Yugoslavia (where given what came after its dissolution, and given the mild nature of the communist regime that gave populace much better lives they had compared to other communist countries or any time before or after, yugonostalgia is very strong) to post Soviet countries to East Germany.

Brain washed Americans and some other western people might find this strange but this is heartfelt, true and authentic phenomenon that they might well try to get to understand. This movie might help, so watch it with an open mind. You should, because it is a gem.
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10/10
Excellent movie!
polukrovka30 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Good-bye, Lenin!" is the best film I've seen in years. The script is excellent, the cast & performance are superb, and some scenes really shake you up, especially if you personally experienced the fall of the system. Remember that mighty episode when Mother finally manages to make her way into the street and sees the Lenin monument being carried away by a helicopter? Jesus, when the huge Lenin turned his face and pleading hand to her as if seeking help it gave me creeps. What a finding!

I wouldn't say the film is neutral. Not with the first (and only) German cosmonaut toiling as a lowly cab driver, the main character's sister having to leave university to sell burgers, the governmental money-changing swindle, pensioners' tears, and the above Lenin monument scene in the movie. Personally, I find this film sad and thought-provoking. Would strongly recommend it to anyone except hopeless hard core right-wingers.
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8/10
A very clever film!!!
lin-black17 January 2010
A friend gave me this film to watch on DVD about a year ago, and I have also seen it since on television. I have now bought the DVD and I think it is an absolutely brilliant film.

A loyal East German mother falls into a coma at a time when there are major rumblings of discontent in the DDR. When she comes out of the coma the wall is down and East and West Germany are heading towards reunification. Sadly any major shock could kill her and her devoted son has to pretend that the DDR is still alive and well, and his efforts to do this are the main story of the film.

This is one of the most refreshing, amusing and well made films that I have ever seen. The idea for the film is extremely original, the script is spot on and so are all the actors, and it is a very clever film indeed.

For me the most amusing and touching part of the film is when the son and his friend 'doctor' a piece of newsreel to make it look to the dying mother as if it were the West Berliners were trying to escape across the wall into East Berlin! When they later sent her ashes up in a home made rocket I was reaching for my handkerchief because it was so touching.

The film does not go hugely overboard in criticising the former East Germany and that was good. I visited the DDR a number of times in the 1970's (I am a socialist by the way) and the East Germany that I saw was not the same that is often lambasted by the capitalist west and right wing historians.

I would earnestly and strongly recommend this film to anyone.
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Just to add
nielsastrup21 February 2004
So many reviewers here have already given this movie its due. It IS funny, excellent, touching - and some more. I saw it twice - the second time I took my 13-year old daughter along. It was an excellent way of giving her a feel of what the division of Europe really felt like and what happened after the fall of the wall. She loved the movie, laughed, cried and sighed and afterwards we did actually talk quite a bit about this period of history: So - if you would like to stuff a little bit of history into your kids head, without the kid realizing that he or she is actually having a history lesson, this movie is highly recommended.
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9/10
Not quite a comedy, not quite a drama....but well worth seeing.
MartinHafer12 October 2011
"Goodbye Lenin" begins about a decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall. A family of four lives in East Germany. When the father goes on a business trip, he doesn't return--he's defected to the West. The mother, in reaction to this, becomes a super-communist--devoting all her energy in working with kids and indoctrinating them about the wonders of East Germany. She is so devoted, that she is even given a major award--she's a hero of the nation.

A decade passes. Just before the Wall falls, the lady has a heart attack and is in a coma for eight months. During this time, HUGE social upheaval occurs when the Wall falls. No longer communist, East Germans clamor to keep up with the changes. And then, the mother awakens. But, her family (in particular her son) is afraid to tell her about the changes, as they've been told she is on borrowed time and will probably soon die--and a scare could easily kill her. So, they decide to hide the fall of their nation from her and pretend it's all the same old East Germany when she awakens. But how long can they keep up this crazy pretense?!

I won't tell you what's next, but I will say that this film is exceptional BUT is also hard to really categorize. While parts of funny, it really isn't a comedy (particularly when the mother divulges a HUGE secret). It can be funny at times but also quite sad as well. It's unusual to say the least--but not in a bad way. See this film, as I really think we should encourage and embrace films that have plots that aren't just derivative or mindless. This film is highly creative, complex and well made throughout. See this film.

My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that I think the film is a bit over-long. It's hard to maintain its momentum and the film loses a tiny bit of its punch because of this. But, as I said this is a VERY small complaint.
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8/10
Superb tragicomedy
Jona19885 April 2011
Both sad and funny, perfectly blended together in this brilliant dark comedy. Often stuff that I laugh at are the same that also seem kind of sad. But it's never in any awkward feeling kind of way, it always works fine and is really clever. I'm interested in history and even if this is about a emotional story the settings and some of the events that the plot progresses through gives a glimpse of Eastern bloc life, realistic feeling scenes of the fall of the wall and the quick changes in the former GDR. Actually more than just a glimpse. I must state something of what I think of these aspects of it. Very well done in creating a good feel and a believable presentation. Is this film pro-western? No according to me. I definitely feel it's a objective representation, not intentionally taking any stand. Even if I like it because of my interest in the history in which this takes place that doesn't mean that viewers not interested in those aspects will find it dull, absolutely not. Because the central think of this movie is an emotionally deep story about caring. The sad emotional points take a bigger part than I had thought, these thing are actually the biggest parts of it. Not criticism in any way, I just had thought that there would be more of a comedy. Not meaning that it's lacking in funny scenes, there are plenty and enough. This story is a emotional one mainly and the plot is unproblematic to follow. The characters really grip you. The stuff they are going through gets to one, to the level that you are at full attention to see where this is taking them. However even if like stated the deep stuff that I feel are the thing that takes it so high the plot line is pretty clever thought out. To the level of being unique? Maybe not but still brilliant in a way that some the ideas never feels overused. The acting is just as great as the rest which naturally was necessary for it to have the brilliant sentimental depth. Some films with a emotional tone, kind of a message can feel like a watch once film, not bad but kind of like it hits you once and it can't be the same the next time. Not so with Goodbye Lenin! cause it is not just an emotional journey but a amazingly entertaining piece of film overall. Goodbye Lenin is pretty close to the brilliant. Is it a masterpiece? Well no but I still can't really find anything to call a flaw. See this film and then you will want to see it again. 8/10.
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9/10
Touching, engaging and profound
byght24 May 2004
There are comedies which are touching. There are comedies which are thought-provoking. But there are few that manage to achieve both. "Good bye, Lenin!" is in this ultra-rare class--a comedy which can only be called profound.

The only film I can imagine to compare this to is another European tale of well-intentioned deception: "Life is Beautiful." Though neither as funny nor as wrenching as Roberto Benini's Holocaust fairy-tale, "Good bye, Lenin!" is perhaps more thoughtful and mature.

This film is a story of upheaval, about a people surprised and intimidated by the force and gaudiness of their new freedom. For the first time in any film I have seen, I have been able to witness the onslaught of a new way of life through the eyes of those on the other side of the Wall. Crimson Coca-Cola banners unfurl on East German buildings like the flag of a conqueror--their presence seems unsettling and profane. A heroic cosmonaut is reduced to driving a taxi. The comfortable socialist products that once lined the shelves of the shabby local store are replaced by a garishly colored sea of choices that bewilder the customers searching for their familiar state-produced pickles. All around them, the vivid goals of profit and acquisition replace their failed goals of egalitarianism and brotherhood.

Amidst all this, protagonist Alex makes a choice for his proudly socialist mother as she awakens from an eight-month coma--he will shield her from this new way of life through an elaborate series of white lies and fabrication. In doing so, in his own words, he creates for her the East Germany that he had always wished for--a triumph rather than a failure. Ultimately, what Alex is truly protecting is a part of himself--the child who sang East German anthems and looked skyward with dreams of representing his tiny but proud country in the cosmos. Even as he successfully sells satellite TV to his countrymen, Alex is able to keep the ideals of socialism alive within him.

"Good bye, Lenin!" is a fitting and unapologetic eulogy to an impossible human dream of equality, unity and dignity--a dream which through the eyes of Alex and his mother is no less beautiful for all its horrific flaws, or its spectacular failure.
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not a comedy at all
plexuz22 March 2004
This is a deep and touching film. I would warn people thinking that this is a funny film about the fall of the Wall. It is not a comedy at all!

It is a film about a family broken by the political system. About tragedy of a couple torn apart by the Wall. It is about a mother and a wife who had to choose either to go West after her beloved husband and possibly to loose her children (regime would have taken them away), or to stay on the East side with her kids, but to loose the person she loved. She chose the later.

In many reviews I have seen, she was depicted as an active socialist. No, she wasn't. She was dedicated to kids. She substituted her grief and pain with social activities with school children. She also was helping to write complaints and petitions, so she was a little revolter in that society!

She slipped into coma in GDR and woke up in united Germany, but because even minor stress could kill her, her son decides to keep her in the world she used to live. The situation itself and what her son does to keep that world alive, is what an average moviegoer will see. There are funny moments of course. But please look deeper and you understand that behind this there is a deep tragedy of generation of people, whose life was literally wasted by politicians and their games.
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9/10
An achievement not just in film making
BerlinGuy18 September 2003
While it is most certainly not a masterpiece of a film if you consider it on a purely artistic level, it has great relevance that goes far beyond what films normally achieve.

Good Bye Lenin works on many levels: comedy, drama, even as a political and historical film. And despite what is specific about it - German history - the film has a core that can be understood universally: the love of a son for his mother. In this sense, "Good bye Lenin" transcends language, culture or politics.

However, people unfamiliar with Germany history may not understand the other very important film´s achievement, namely its political dimension.

It is true that East Germans wanted to get rid of the communist regime back in 1989 but no-one gave any thought to would happen once the wall was down. West Germany was thought of as some sort of huge shopping mall. In those days of euphoria no-one heeded the harsh face that a capitalist society may put on from time to time.

Overnight everyone´s life in East Germany was turned upside down. What you had been taught at school was not applicable in the new world. What you had believed in, was no longer the proper school of thinking. Streets were re-named, monuments torn down, factories closed down. East Germans had to re-write their biographies.

Clichés of the know-it-all arrogant West-German ("Wessi") and the naive and obedient East German ("Ossi") developed soon.

Today with an unemployment rate of 20 % in the East as opposed to 9 % in West Germany, East Germans tend to glorify their socialist past, forgetting the hardships and oppression they were put to.

One phrase to sum it all up: the wall still exists in some people´s heads be they from the East or the West. But along came "Good Bye Lenin". Maybe I am giving the film too much credit but it appears to have managed the impossible feat of unifying Germany at long last - a union in laughter. It was great timing, I suppose, but nevertheless, it struck a chord with East Germans and West Germans alike. West Germans got their history lesson and accepted that it was possible to uphold one´s dignity under a totalitarian regime.

And East Germans finally got the funeral they were not granted in 1990. They got the opportunity to "bury" their former home country. Germany did reunify in 1990 but East German input was negligible. However, some signatures on a treaty do not make a country disappear, it lives on in people´s memories, in people´s dreams, in people´s illusions. And deserves recognition. And Good Bye Lenin gave that long waited for recognition.

All that achieved by one little film? I may overestimate its impact but even if I do, I am pretty close to the truth, nonetheless. Let s hope so, anyway.
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10/10
Teutonic Excellence in Cinema?? (a pleasing paradox indeed)
Immersion22 August 2003
It is rarely that my partner and I come out of the cinema and walk quietly. We usually try and deconstruct the film and analyse it to smithereens.

This was one of those occasions where one just wanted to savour the feeling of comprehension and satisfaction that one gets by being in total harmony with a raconteur. Another example of this was after watching the excellent Bowling for Columbine...

Getting to the point, there really isn't much that I can say about Good Bye Lenin that will convey the excellence and well-roundedness of the film. I am also going to avoid discussing the subject of the film as this has been done on most of the other reviews. All I can really say is that it manages to tenderly combine the multi-faceted elements of our everyday lives without being sanctimonious, political, or over-sentimental.

There is no attempts to eke any cheap laughs (the potential for goofy humour and uber heart-tugging was there aplenty and would have been maximised were this the usual Hollywood summer fare). In this case, the "rarely-used-these-days" principle of less-is-more was applied throughout the film.

All I can truly say is rustle up the cinema fare (any cinema opting to screen this in favour of more lucrative "Legally Dumb Terminator's Pie" deserves the thinking person's support) and give yourself a treat.

"Glückwünsche" to the people behind this.

Good Bye Lenin...Welcome excellent films!!!
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10/10
The End of a Dream of an Old Generation
claudio_carvalho20 September 2004
In 1990, in East Germany, the devoted socialist mother (Katrin Saß) of Alex (Daniel Brühl) and Ariane (Maria Simon) has an infarct and stays in coma for eight months. When she wakes, her doctor advises the family that her heart is weak and any problem could kill her. With a debilitated heath, her son understands that she would not support to acknowledge the end of her ideology and dream. Alex decides to hide the fall of the Berlin Wall and simulates in her bedroom that life has not changed in the recently integrated nation.

The situations are dramatic and funny at the same time. This movie is simply wonderful! The screenplay uses drama, comedy, history and politics, supported by a fantastic direction and an outstanding cast, to show the situation of a generation who fought for and believed in the socialism, in their leaders and in the party, and suddenly sees the end of their dreams, and the next generation, avid for consumption. One of the most important point of 'Good Bye Lenin!' is the neutrality of the director, never defending or criticizing the socialism or the capitalism. Therefore, there is no manipulation along the story, trying to defend a system against the other. The dichotomy between the former and the new economical system is presented by the character Ariane, 'who left the university to sell hamburgers', as per the definition of Alex. Another great attraction of this film are the footages of that period of our contemporary history. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): 'Adeus Lenin' ('Good Bye Lenin')
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10/10
More drama than comedy
bandw14 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This movie takes place in East Berlin just prior to and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In reading some basic history of the German Democratic Republic (the GDR) I learned facts about how it was created in the Soviet Zone of occupation after WWII, about the Berlin airlift, the rule of the Communists, and the uprisings that ultimately resulted in German reunification in 1990. But all of this never gave me a feeling for what it was like to live in the country. Often it is a work of art that can best do that and "Goodbye, Lenin!" did not disappoint me in that context. Unless you were there, in watching a movie like this you have to trust the sincerity of the effort, and this movie seemed to be honest in its intentions and execution. It appeared that great care was taken to recreate the time period. But again, someone who lived through that era would have to be the final judge.

The plot concentrates on the lives of Alex (Daniel Brühl), and his mother Christiane (Kathrin Sass). Christiane is a Communist Party member, but not really a party stooge. She spends much of her time writing letters to the authorities about how small things could be improved, like dress sizing and colors. At one point she says that it was the biggest mistake in her life not to have followed her husband after he defected to the West, so her devotion to the Communist Party was not all that firm.

From the way that Christiane and Alex were living it looked to me like you could have a life in the GDR as long as you did not stray too far from the party line. You could have friends, be employed at a meaningful job (Christiane was a teacher, admired by her students), and have a family life. It was no paradise--it was noted that you could have to wait for years to buy a mediocre auto or get a phone. And the living quarters were small with drab views. But still, a life. This film was much of a history lesson for me. It is interesting to compare this movie with the excellent "The Lives of Others," where the background living conditions presented there are more sinister. But in that film you had artists and intellectuals pushing the envelop of approved behavior.

When Christiane sees Alex participating in a protest she suffers a serious heart attack and lapses into a coma for eight months. When she comes around her doctor advises Alex that she must not be subjected to any significant shocks lest she suffer another attack. However, during Christiane's coma the Berlin Wall fell and the two German countries were united. Since Alex thinks this change would be too much for his mom to digest without prompting another heart attack, he tries to present the world to her as it was before her coma, figuring this would not be too hard since she will be bedridden. This sets up the circumstance for humorous situations as it becomes increasingly more difficult for Alex to maintain the charade, what with all of the West German products flooding in and the old products fading out. And, once Chrisiane starts watching TV, Alex has to fake news programs. A lot of this amounts to replaying old news clips, since the news never changed in the old regime, just reports on productivity quotas and the evils of capitalism. At such moments I was conflicted about whether to view such commentary on the GDR with humor or sadness. Director Becker probably identified with Alex, since it must have been a challenge for him to obtain the necessary props and settings to recreate the time period.

I thought the actors were all top notch. Brühl is excellent and Chulpan Khamatova (as Laura, his love interest) is quite lovely. The relationship that blossoms between Alex and Laura is one of the most tender and believably developed that I have seen. On one level you can view this movie as love stories: between Alex and his mom, and between Alex and Laura. In fact there are many levels to the story. The friendship that develops between Alex and his cohort from the West is sincere and can be taken as a symbol for the new relationships between the East and West. It is interesting to note that the young people were mostly upbeat about the reunification, whereas the older people had some problems with it--converting from a regimented view of life that you have grown up with forever to a whole new way of living is not easy I suppose. The scene that has the helicopter removing the statue of Lenin is fantastic, not only as a beautifully filmed piece of cinema, but also as a symbol of the changing times. Becker presents a nuanced view, without apparent bias, of the impacts of reunification on the lives of ordinary people.

The score fluctuates between rather delicate themes and more upbeat tempos, reflecting the conflicting moods. It is never intrusive and adds much to the experience.

Altogether I feel this is a clever, insightful, and entertaining film.

I wish there were more people who lived in East Berlin during the time period of this film who would comment.
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8/10
Disinformation in Good Bye Lenin!
LukeStarkiller29 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In Wolfgang Becker's film Good Bye Lenin! several characters seek to protect each other from knowledge that they feel may harm them. Alex, the film's protagonist, believes that his father left his mother for a woman in West Berlin. In reality, Alex's father had to flee the country and wished more than anything to see his family once more. Fearing for the safety of her family, Christiane (Alex's mother) does not join her husband in the West.

When Christiane falls into an 8-month coma due to a heart attack, the dividing line between East and West Berlin falls, and Western ideals flow into the socialist city. When she wakes up, Alex decides to hide this knowledge from her in order to avoid another heart attack. The process proves exhausting; Alex must hide the commercial products that have inundated the city from his mother by disguising them as state-sponsored items like "Mocha-Fix" coffee and "Spreewell" pickles. As capitalism expands, so too must Alex's ruse. In order to explain what Christiane has already seen, Alex begins, with the help of a friend, to produce false television news reports.

Alex's campaign of misinformation tends to resemble the actions of the GDR,and he creates a representation of old East Berlin in the form of his mother's room. The door to her bedroom becomes a sort of Berlin Wall as Burger King uniforms hang just outside.

Furthermore, his efforts come to resemble those of his own mother to keep knowledge of his father from him and his sister. Christiane kept letters from her husband hidden from her children. In seeking to protect her children from the lure of the West, she drastically alters the idea that her son has of his father. Alex imagines him as a disgustingly fat man lounging next to a pool and biting ravenously into a cheeseburger. As it turns out, his father, like all the characters in the film, only wanted the best for his family. The way in which the film treats this desire is problematic: though Alex wants to protect his mother, he may be harming her just as much by misleading her. Similarly, by protecting Alex from the memory of his father, Christiane destroyed his image.

When Alex's girlfriend, Lara, finally tell Christiane the truth, she cannot chastise him for his actions. Rather, she realizes that she has done the same thing herself out of love. Knowing that the ruse is an expression of Alex's love for her, she decides to let him keep on thinking she is ignorant to the reunification of Berlin.

Though the ending seems happy, it is problematic as well. Though Alex believes his mother died blissfully unaware of the triumph of the West-knowledge has still been kept from him. In reality, Christiane did know the truth and died blissfully aware of her son's devoted love. However, the problem of characters depriving one another of knowledge is still perpetuated in this ending.

*This was written as a short response to the film for a comparative world literature class that I took on a whim in my final semester at the University of Illinois. Composed on the fly, it probably contains some errors, but lemme know what you think in terms of theme and interpretation!
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