Good Bye, Lenin!
|Good Bye, Lenin!|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Wolfgang Becker|
|Produced by||Stefan Arndt|
|Edited by||Peter R. Adam|
X-Filme Creative Pool
|Distributed by||X Verleih AG (Germany)|
|Budget||DM 9.6 millon (€4.8 million) (approx. $6.5 million)|
Good Bye, Lenin! is a 2003 German tragicomedy film, directed by Wolfgang Becker. The cast includes Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova, and Maria Simon. The story follows a family in East Germany; the mother (Saß) is dedicated to the socialist cause and falls into a coma shortly before the 1989 revolution. When she is revived eight months later, her son (Brühl) attempts to protect her from fatal shock by concealing the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of socialism.
Most scenes were shot at the Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin and around Plattenbauten near Alexanderplatz. Good Bye, Lenin! received numerous honours, including the European Film Award for Best Film and German Film Award for Best Feature Film.
Alex lives with his sister, Ariane, his mother, Christiane, and Ariane's infant daughter, Paula. Alex's father abandoned the family and fled to the West in 1978; his mother filled the void left by her marriage by joining the Socialist Unity Party and devoting her time to advocating for citizens and matters of public interest. While Christiane believes in the ability of socialism to improve Germany and the world, her children are more cynical. Alex is disgusted with the drab celebration of East Germany's 40th anniversary and participates in an anti-government demonstration. There he meets a girl, but they are separated by the Volkspolizei before they can properly introduce themselves.
When Christiane sees Alex being arrested, she suffers a near-fatal heart attack and falls into a coma. While visiting his mother in the hospital, Alex encounters the girl he met in the demonstration, Lara, a nurse from the Soviet Union who is caring for his mother. Alex and Lara soon begin dating and develop a close bond.
Shortly afterward, the Berlin Wall falls, Erich Honecker resigns from office, and capitalism comes to East Berlin. The TV repair shop where Alex works closes, and he gets a job selling and installing satellite dishes for a West German firm. There, he befriends a coworker, Denis Domaschke, who is an aspiring filmmaker. When Ariane's university closes, she works at a Burger King drive-through; she begins dating the store manager, Rainer, who soon moves into their apartment.
After eight months, Christiane awakens from her coma, but she is severely weakened and her doctor warns that any shock might cause another, possibly fatal, heart attack. Alex realizes that the news of recent events would be too much for her to bear and decides to maintain the illusion that things are as before in the German Democratic Republic. To do so, Alex, Ariane, and Lara get the apartment's old East German furniture and decor out of storage, dress in their old clothes, and repackage new Western products in old East German jars. Their deception is successful, though increasingly complicated as Christiane occasionally witnesses strange occurrences, such as a gigantic Coca-Cola advertisement banner on an adjacent building that she sees through her bedroom window. With Denis' help, Alex edits old tapes of East German news broadcasts and creates fake broadcasts to explain these odd events. Meanwhile, Alex and Ariane's attempts to exchange their mother's life savings, all in Ostmarks, for West German currency are unsuccessful as the deadline for exchanges passes before they find where Christiane was keeping the money.
Christiane eventually gains strength and wanders outside one day while Alex is asleep. She sees all her neighbors' old furniture piled up in the street, new West German cars for sale in a lot next door, advertisements for Western corporations, and a statue of Lenin being flown away by a helicopter. Alex and Ariane quickly take her home and show her a fake newscast explaining East Germany is now accepting refugees from the West following a severe economic crisis there.
Soon after, the family goes to inspect their dacha in the countryside at Christiane's suggestion. While they are there, Christiane reveals her own secret: Her husband had fled because his refusal to join the ruling party had made his life and job increasingly difficult, and the plan had been for the rest of the family to join him. Christiane, fearing the government would take Alex and Ariane away from her if things went wrong, chose to stay. Contrary to what she told her children, their father wrote many letters to them, which she hid away. As she regrets the decision and declares her wish that she could see her husband one last time to make amends, Christiane relapses and is taken back to the hospital.
Alex meets his father, Robert, who has remarried, has two children with his new wife, and now lives in West Berlin. He convinces him to see Christiane one last time, stating he should say he was moved to return East to see his dying wife. Under pressure to reveal the truth about the fall of the East, Alex creates a final fake news segment, convincing a taxi driver (who is or resembles the cosmonaut Sigmund Jähn, the first German in space and Alex's childhood hero) to act in the false news report as the new leader of East Germany and to give a speech about opening the borders to the West. However, Christiane already knows the truth (Lara tried to convince her about the real political developments earlier the same day). Nevertheless, she reacts fondly to her son's effort, without mentioning anything.
Christiane dies two days later: She outlives the GDR, passing away three days after full official German reunification. Alex, Ariane, Lara, Denis, and Robert scatter her ashes in the wind using an old toy rocket Alex made with his father during his childhood.
- Daniel Brühl as Alexander "Alex" Kerner
- Nico Ledermüller as 11-year-old Alex
- Katrin Saß as Christiane Kerner
- Chulpan Khamatova as Lara
- Maria Simon as Ariane Kerner
- Florian Lukas as Denis Domaschke
- Alexander Beyer as Rainer
- Burghart Klaußner as Robert Kerner
- Michael Gwisdek as Klapprath
- Christine Schorn as Frau Schäfer
- Jürgen Holtz as Herr Ganske
- Jochen Stern as Herr Mehlert
- Ernst-Georg Schwill as the taxi-driver
- Stefan Walz as a Sigmund Jähn look-alike taxi-driver
- Eberhard Kirchberg as Dr. Wagner
- Hans-Uwe Bauer as Dr. Mewes
The film score was composed by Yann Tiersen, except the version of "Summer 78" sung by Claire Pichet. Stylistically, the music is very similar to Tiersen's earlier work on the soundtrack to Amélie. One piano composition, "Comptine d'un autre été : L'après-midi", is used in both films.
Several famous GDR songs are featured. Two children, members of the Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation, sing Unsere Heimat (Our Homeland). Friends of Christiane (living in the same building) follow with Bau Auf! Bau Auf! (Build Up! Build Up!), another anthem of the Free German Youth. The final fake newscast with Sigmund Jähn features a rousing rendition of the GDR national anthem, Auferstanden aus Ruinen.
Alexander creates fictional newscasts to reminisce his earlier East German lifestyle as well as a communist environment. He goes out of his way to use East German products to fool his mother such as Spreewald gherkins and although this is all for his mother, you can also tell he is creating a fantasy in which he would like to live in. Alexander lived his whole life with this barrier; therefore the drastic change was hard for him unlike his sister Ariane. Ariane adopts the new Western ideals and lifestyle, but the feeling of longing that Alex experiences is ostalgie. Ostalgie is a neologism for the nostalgia for a communist past that is a common theme in Good Bye, Lenin!
A noticeable moment when Alex shows signs of ostalgie is when he begins to question the Western changes. For example, he gets angry when his mother's currency cannot be converted into Deutschemarks because he passed the deadline by two days. He was mad at the new Western rules that were imposed that he still had not yet been accustomed to. Another example can be the videos that Alex creates for his mother. The movies are a sign of where his philosophy stands on the whole situation and how he wishes that socialism peacefully was recognized as a better way of living unlike capitalism taking over abruptly.
The director, Wolfgang Becker, purposely left out politics and large negative details to draw attention to the nostalgic tone. He wanted to focus on the personal aspect of an East German family and how even though they were in a communist environment, they focused more on traditions and family related matters. One theme that did remain, was realization of bluntness in the mother's shock at seeing her son clubbed; police brutality being the reality of the socialist system she apparently endorsed all these years.
Finally in 2004 the New York Times commented on "Ostalgie" which was embodied in a town called Eisenhüttenstadt. It became popular because of Good Bye, Lenin! which imitated Christiane's bedroom. This put a lot of light on the ostalgie situation, as well as the film.
The film received strong positive reviews, holding a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Empire gave the film four stars out of five with a verdict of, "An ingenious little idea that is funny, moving and—gasp!—even makes you think."
- Spreewald gherkins, one of the foods Christiane wants
- Ostalgie, nostalgia for East Germany
- List of submissions to the 76th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of German submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
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- "Good Bye, Lenin!". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
- Schwartz, Ronald (2008). Great Spanish Films Since 1950. Scarecrow Press. p. 348. ISBN 1461696615.
- Whiteman, Bobby (11 February 2004). "'Master' lord of London". Variety. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
- Kapczynski, Jennifer M. (2007). "Negotiating Nostalgia: The GDR Past in Berlin is in Germany and Good Bye, Lenin!". The Germanic Review. 82 (1): 78–100. doi:10.3200/GERR.82.1.78-100.
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- Official website (Germany)
- Official website (US)
- Good Bye, Lenin! on IMDb
- Good Bye, Lenin! at AllMovie
- Good Bye, Lenin! at Box Office Mojo
- Good Bye, Lenin! at Rotten Tomatoes
| Goya Award for Best European Film