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5 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Good Bye, Lenin!
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by Dennis Swennumson

"Best foreign film so far this year."
5 stars

“Good Bye, Lenin!” has a premise that sounds like a very elaborate scheme one would see on a sitcom. It’s about the way of life before and after the fall of communism in Eastern Germany, and how it specifically affects a family not ready for the change. The reason is because the mother, a supporter of the socialist regime, was in a coma when the power shifted. Noting her very weak state, her son Alex (Daniel Bruhl) knows it would be too much of a shock for her to arrive at this realization, so he attempts to create the illusion that the country is still under communist rule. He surmises that this plan wouldn’t be too hard to pull of, his mother is bed-ridden after all, but as the saying goes, a plan is just a list of things that don't happen. “Good Bye, Lenin!” is a funny and often touching family and coming of age drama.

The opening scenes of “Good Bye, Lenin!” depict Alex’s childhood, it’s a time punctuated with sadness, where his beloved memories come at a premium. He experiences the departure of his father, leaving his mother to raise two children, an event that leaves her an emotional wasteland, for years she does not talk as a result of the depression. We see the young Alex develop an infatuation with the universe, launch model rockets and worship his idol, the first East German astronaut, Sigmund Jahn. What enhances the quality of these nostalgic scenes comes from the score of Yann Tiersen; it’s a beautiful composition that draws us into the film. The movie moves forward and shows us the teenage Alex, recognizing and participating in demonstrations against some of the DDR’s policies, is witnessed by his activist mother in a march, the ramifications leave her in a coma.

The coming of age elements come into focus with Alex’s exploration of Western culture’s offerings and a flourishing romance with Lara (Chulpan Khamatova), the student nurse who takes care of his mother in the hospital. His sister Ariane, leaves college for her first experiences with real capitalism, she works the drive-thru of a Burger King. As his reality manipulation continues, he enlists the help of an aspiring filmmaker to create faux newscasts; his sister and girlfriend realize the lack of morality involved with his project. Alex is convinced he’s making a sacrifice for his mother’s well-being, but as the story moves along he describes how the reality grips him too, he has created a socialist government that he would want the fallen regime to be. But this is only a reality that exists in his mother’s bedroom; he does not consider the consequences of his mother possibly gaining the strength to leave the apartment on her own.

Parts of the movie may be a little too somber, and the overall plot line can lead to repetitiveness, but director and co-writer Wolfgang Becker keeps his film moving along with the style of a subdued Guy Ritchie, and there are many simple, funny scenes. Where Becker really succeeds is with the portrayal of the film’s greater drama, Germany’s healing process. There are newscasts about sudden economic strain and of the successes of Germany’s national soccer team. Some may think that American audiences may not enjoy a movie ultimately about German culture, but what happens in the movie echoes what is going in this country right now. Currently there’s a political climate that can potentially divide families and Americans are always willing to unite behind sports, like the 1980 US Hockey Team and most recently with Lance Armstrong’s record sixth Tour De France victory.

“Good Bye, Lenin!” is an entertaining and objective account of the world’s biggest headline of the last two decades and an honest, poignant family drama.

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originally posted: 08/10/04 10:40:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 FilmFest Kansas City For more in the 2005 FilmFest Kansas City series, click here.

User Comments

4/16/06 CPT Hoolie Funny and moving. 4 stars
8/13/05 Ben Quinn A delightful film 5 stars
4/10/05 R.C.F. film looses focus in overblown melodramatic moments, as a comedy it only works half as good 4 stars
11/09/04 Taylor Fladgate People in the "Blue States" will enjoy & understand this complex comedy. 5 stars
9/23/04 denny good but not up to my expectations; would have been better as straight comedy 3 stars
8/16/04 ownerofdajoint truly a clever and deep flick don't miss it 5 stars
8/15/04 J.P. George Borders on radical chic "Ostalgie" but still an excellent film! 5 stars
8/12/04 kc not a waste of time, but apparently overrated here 4 stars
5/17/04 ajay really good... 4 stars
4/08/04 bri just see it! 5 stars
3/29/04 Mark poignant and heartfelt 5 stars
3/21/04 Beth E. This heartwarming movie presents former East Germany in a hilarious way. I love it! 5 stars
1/28/04 irena has its moments, may surprise you, but don't expect much, a bit overelongated 3 stars
1/12/04 Chlo Gyllenhaal I thought this was a sweet and fun movie! Daniel Bruhl looks a lot like Jake Gyllenhaal.... 5 stars
10/12/03 Mitsaso An amazingly funny and touching movie! 5 stars
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  27-Feb-2004 (R)
  DVD: 10-Aug-2004



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