Good Bye, Lenin!

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Good Bye Lenin!
Good Bye Lenin.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Becker
Written by
  • Wolfgang Becker
  • Bernd Lichtenberg
Produced byStefan Arndt
Starring
CinematographyMartin Kukula
Edited byPeter R. Adam
Music by
Production
company
X-Filme Creative Pool
Distributed byX Verleih AG (through Warner Bros. Pictures[1][2])
Release date
  • 13 February 2003 (2003-02-13)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryGermany
LanguageGerman
BudgetDM 9.6 million (4.8 million) (approx. $6.5 million)
Box office$79,384,880

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 (GDR); the mother (Sass) is dedicated to the socialist cause and falls into a coma in October 1989, shortly before the November revolution. When she awakens eight months later in June 1990, her son (Brühl) attempts to protect her from a fatal shock by concealing the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in East Germany.[3]

Most scenes were shot at the Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin and around Plattenbauten near Alexanderplatz. Good Bye Lenin! received numerous honours, including 2003's European Film Award for Best Film and German Film Award for Best Fiction Film.[4][5]

Plot[edit]

The film is set in East Berlin, in the period from October 1989 to a few days after German reunification in October 1990.

Alex Kerner lives with his mother Christiane, his sister Ariane, and her infant daughter Paula. Alex's father purportedly abandoned the family for a mistress in the West in 1978. His mother joined the Socialist Unity Party and devotes her time to advocating for citizens. While Christiane believes socialism can improve Germany and the world, her children are realistic. Alex is disgusted with the 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 introduce themselves.

Christiane, seeing Alex being arrested and beaten, suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma because nobody initially comes to her aid. Visiting his mother in hospital, Alex finds that her nurse, Lara, is the girl from the demonstration. She and Alex begin dating shortly afterwards.

Erich Honecker resigns, Egon Krenz takes over, the borders are opened, the Berlin Wall falls, East Germany holds free elections, and capitalism comes to East Berlin. Alex begins working for a West German firm selling and installing satellite dishes. He befriends a western colleague, aspiring filmmaker Denis Domaschke. Ariane's university closes and she works at Burger King instead. She begins dating the manager, Rainer, who moves into their apartment.

After eight months, Christiane awakens from her coma. Her doctor warns her family that she is still weak and any shock might cause another, possibly fatal, heart attack. Alex resolves to conceal the profound societal changes from her and maintain the illusion that the German Democratic Republic is just as it was before her coma. He, Ariane, and Lara retrieve their old East German furniture from storage, dress in their old clothes, and repackage new Western food in old East German jars. The deception is increasingly complicated as Christiane witnesses strange occurrences, such as a gigantic Coca-Cola banner on an adjacent building. Denis and Alex create fake news broadcasts from old East German news tapes to explain these odd events. Alex and Ariane fail to find where Christiane keeps her life savings (in East German marks) in time to exchange them for West German marks before the deadline.

Christiane gets stronger and one day wanders outside while Alex is asleep. She sees her neighbours' furniture stacked in the street, new West German cars for sale, advertisements for Western corporations, and a statue of Lenin being flown away by helicopter. Alex and Ariane take her back home and show her a fake newscast explaining East Germany is now accepting refugees from the West following an economic crisis there.

At the family dacha Christiane reveals her own secret: her husband had fled not for a mistress but because of the difficulties he faced for refusing to join the ruling party. The plan had been for the rest of the family to join him. Christiane, fearing the government would take her children if things went wrong, decided to stay. Contrary to what she had told her children, their father wrote many letters that she hid. As she declares her wish to see her husband one last time to make amends, she relapses and is taken back to hospital.

Alex meets his father, Robert, who has remarried, has two children, and lives in West Berlin. He convinces him to see Christiane one last time. Under pressure to reveal the truth about the fall of the East, Alex creates a final fake news segment, persuading a taxi driver (who resembles 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, unbeknownst to Alex, Lara had already recounted the true political developments to Christiane earlier that day.

Christiane dies two days later, outliving the German Democratic Republic by three days after German reunification. The family and friends scatter her ashes in the wind using a toy rocket Alex made with his father during childhood.

Cast[edit]

Development[edit]

For director Wolfgang Becker, work on Good Bye Lenin! began in the summer of 1999,[6] but for screenwriter Bernd Lichtenberg, the work had already begun almost a decade earlier. Lichtenberg’s experience of the reunification period as a New West Berliner at a similar age to his protagonist Alex was formed into a story which already included many aspects of the later film, but first ended up "in the drawer" for a few years. He stated: “I had the feeling that it simply wasn’t the right time yet.” This only changed when he saw Becker's Life is All You Get (German: Das Leben ist eine Baustelle). Especially interested in the mix of sadness and comedy, which he himself also envisaged for his film, he believed he had found the right person to bring his idea to life. He was not mistaken.[7] "All of a sudden there was this energy",[This quote needs a citation] recalls producer Stefan Arndt during the recording of the 5-page synopsis with Becker. “We knew we could tell the story in just the way we would like to.”[This quote needs a citation]

Nevertheless, it was not an easy process to finish the script. It supposedly took them six drafts plus a few interim versions to complete the script. Lichtenberg wrote the first drafts by himself. He stayed in close contact with Becker who voiced his criticism, especially of the characters. This was an important point for both of them so it was one they argued over as they both wanted to tell the story “through the characters”. The character that underwent the most radical change was Denis, as he was changed from a main character to a side character. The role of Denis, who was previously conceived as an young overweight boy from Turkey who was to be married off against his will, became an amateur film maker, who is as boldly-imaginative as he is practical. After completing the script, which the screenwriter and producer worked on together towards the end, their collaboration was not over. During the actual filming, Lichtenberg was involved whenever Becker wanted more changes.[7][8]

Soundtrack[edit]

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 East German songs are featured. Two children, members of the Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation, sing "Unsere Heimat" ('Our Homeland'). Friends of Christiane's (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 East German national anthem, "Auferstanden aus Ruinen".

Ostalgie[edit]

Alex creates fictional newscasts to reminisce about 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 for his mother, there is also a hint he himself is creating a fantasy in which he would like to live. Alex lived his whole life with this barrier; therefore the drastic change is hard for him unlike his older sister Ariane. Ariane quickly adopts the new Western ideals and lifestyle, but Alex experiences nostalgia for their former way of life. Ostalgie is a neologism for the nostalgia for a communist past which is a common theme in Good Bye Lenin![9] Alex shows signs of ostalgie when he begins to increasingly criticise the Western changes in themselves.[9]

In 2004 the New York Times commented on "Ostalgie" which was embodied in the town of Eisenhüttenstadt.[9] It became popular because of Good Bye Lenin! which imitated Christiane's bedroom. This put a lot of light on the ostalgie situation, in addition to the film.

Reception[edit]

The film received strongly positive reviews, and has a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Empire magazine gave the film four stars out of five, saying: "An ingenious little idea that is funny, moving and—gasp!—even makes you think."[10] The magazine also ranked it 91st in "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.[11]

Good Bye Lenin! is frequently contrasted with The Lives of Others, which was released three years later, in 2006. Both films portray the legacy of East Germany, but with decidedly different tones.[12][13][14]

Accolades[edit]

Good Bye Lenin! was submitted for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but not nominated.[15]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
BAFTA Awards 15 February 2004 Best Film Not in the English Language Wolfgang Becker Nominated [16]
César Awards February 2004 Best Film from the European Union Won [17]
European Film Awards 6 December 2003 Best Film Won [18][19]
Best Director Nominated
Best Actor Daniel Brühl Won
Best Actress Katrin Sass Nominated
Best Screenwriter Bernd Lichtenberg Won
German Film Award 2003 Best Fiction Film Wolfgang Becker Won [20]
Best Director Won
Outstanding Actor Daniel Brühl Won
Outstanding Actress Katrin Sass Nominated
Outstanding Screenwriter Bernd Lichtenberg Won
Outstanding Editing Peter R. Adam Won
Outstanding Music Yann Tiersen Won
Outstanding Production Design Lothar Holler Won
Outstanding Supporting Actor Florian Lukas Won
Outstanding Supporting Actress Maria Simon Nominated
Golden Eagle Award January 31, 2004 Best Foreign Language Film Wolfgang Becker Nominated [21]
Golden Globes 25 January 2004 Best Foreign Language Film Nominated [22]
Goya Awards 31 January 2004 Best European Film Won [23]
London Film Critics' Circle 11 February 2004 Foreign Language Film of the Year Won [24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kay, Jeremy (25 February 2003). "Goodbye Lenin soars in Germany for Warner Bros". Screen International. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  2. ^ Blaney, Martin (19 February 2003). "Good Bye Lenin! - success at home and abroad". Screen International. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  3. ^ "GOOD BYE, LENIN! (2003)". BFI. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  4. ^ "10 great German films of the 21st century". British Film Institute. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  5. ^ Good Bye Lenin! - IMDb, retrieved 3 October 2019
  6. ^ "Audio Commentary of Wolfgang Becker". Good Bye, Lenin!. X-Editition. 2003.
  7. ^ a b "Bernd Lichtenberg: Eine Familiengeschichte.". Good Bye, Lenin!. X-Editition. 2003.
  8. ^ "„Der Schmerz geht, der Film bleibt – das Making of"". Good Bye, Lenin!. 2004.
  9. ^ a b c "Goodbye Lenin, hello 'Ostalgie'". Green Left Weekly. 6 September 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  10. ^ "Empire's Good Bye, Lenin! Movie Review". empireonline.com. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  11. ^ "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema". Empire.
  12. ^ Klein, Ezra (5 June 2007). "Critiquing The Lives of Others". The American Prospect. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  13. ^ Creech, Jennifer (2009). "A Few Good Men: Gender, Ideology, and Narrative Politics in The Lives of Others and Good Bye Lenin!". Women in German Yearbook. 25: 100–126. JSTOR 20688315.
  14. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (13 April 2007). "The Lives of Others". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  15. ^ Meza, Ed (17 September 2003). "'Lenin' Germany's Oscar entrant". Variety. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Film in 2004". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  17. ^ Fouché, Gwladys (24 February 2004). "Barbarian Invasions overwhelms Césars". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  18. ^ "'Good Bye, Lenin!' Leads European Film Award Nominations". IndieWire. 10 November 2003. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  19. ^ "Germany's "Lenin" Wins Top Prizes at European Film Awards". IndieWire. 8 December 2003. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  20. ^ "Lenin comedy wins German awards". BBC News. 8 June 2003. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  21. ^ Золотой Орел 2003 [Golden Eagle 2003] (in Russian). Ruskino.ru. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Good Bye, Lenin!". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  23. ^ Schwartz, Ronald (2008). Great Spanish Films Since 1950. Scarecrow Press. p. 348. ISBN 978-1461696612.
  24. ^ Whiteman, Bobby (11 February 2004). "'Master' lord of London". Variety. Retrieved 23 June 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]