Good bye, Lenin – review

Alex is a young man in East Germany, socialist state – his mother a staunch believer in the party; life entrenched with the party. But he is no avid believer, nor opponent.

The movie takes off on the last days of the Berlin wall, 1989-1990; people are upset about the inability to travel as often and visit friends and family. The split between personalities, character and ways of life among Berliners, East and West, is apparent; de facto, citizens refer to ‘sides’ when clashing verbally.

Alex’s mother, Mutter, falls into a coma after watching the state police arrest her son, causing a heart-attack. She is, of course, fragile, but begins to wake from her coma, prompting a trip back home where she will spend the rest of her days.

"Good Bye, Lenin!"BRD 2001 Daniel Brühl

“Good Bye, Lenin!” BRD 2001 Daniel Brühl

Aware of this fragility and possible slip back into a coma, Alex does all he can to keep the East-Germany spirit alive for her mother, she remained in the state of coma while the wall came following down, and doctors warned Alex to protect her from excitement, anger or sadness… close to her heart, life, the wall could cause another heart-attack.

The poignant piece by Wolfbank Becker clips together a life outside the wall. What was it like for those who loved the party, living in resentment to the “new ways” ?..

In a way, Alex and his girlfriend, Lara, sister and her boyfriend – from West Germany – restored the wall – a protective one – a wall of safety for their dying, weak mutter.

Old ways become lost memories, cherished past-times; and the new does not attract most as said, as guessed. Life is faster, harder and more career orientated; even the furniture, tastes and characters begin to change. How does Alex manage to keep this spirit alive…

Mutter never accepts her illness as a prevention of her vigor: She continues to write letters to the party headquarters, addressing grievances in a clever, funny and witty way. Those that miss the old-ways love visiting mutter: It is like “living in the past”.

Good bye, Lenin makes us smile, cry, understand and feel the reality of a split city, wall that is now replaced with the dodgy idea: National unity.

The football, now under one roof, Germany, performed a crucial and urgent roll in fixing two different sides of Germany together, essentially into a ball-like shape, rolling towards a supposed unified goal. Adaption to this reversal – or change – was never difficult, but not for all. Perhaps the choices were too vast and never offered a real choice, but only labels in supermarkets, which became colourful in contrast to the greyish existence in DDR Germany.

Alex never chose to welcome the new paradigm and lived the old ways through his mother, a more trustworthy, honest reality than Berlin before and after the wall.

8/10.

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