Goodbye Lenin

8 out of 10


Reinventing An Entire Country

Just how far could you stretch a lie? Enough to re-invent a non-existent country and an entire culture if a loved one'ss life depended on it? "Good Bye Lenin!" is an absolute hoot - a clever, dry and cruelly satirical picture based on the reunification of Germany.

The year is 1989. Having grown up in communist East Germany, Alex Kerner (Daniel Br¨¹hl) lives in a small Berlin apartment with his sister Ariane (Maria Simon) and his ardently Socialist mother Christiane (Katrin KaB). The son of an East German defector (Burghart KlauBner) who disappeared when he was 11, he works as a TV repairman in a small shop. With street demonstrations breaking out, his mother suffers a heart attack on what turns out to be the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Lying in a coma for eight months, she sleeps through the transition of East Germany into the capitalist world. His sister gets a job at Burger King and redecorates the apartment. Following her recovery, Alex is informed that any shock could be fatal and he attempts hide the collapse of East Germany from her. With the help of a co-worker at the satellite TV company (Florian Lukas) where he now works, he creates phony East German news broadcasts, bribes children to dress up as Young Pioneers and even replaces the food in the kitchen with pre-1989 staples to reinvent East Germany and block out the tidal wave of encroaching capitalism as the country fills with Coca-Cola, BMW cars, and Burger King branches.

Taking 10 years to make, it was written by Wolfgang Becker ("Das Leben ist eine Baustelle" - Life is All You Get) and Bernd Lichtenberg, it contains award winning performances by Bruhl (who has gone on to "Joyeux Noel" and "Ladies in Lavender"), Simon and KaB. Finally produced by X-Filme ("Run Lola Run"), it is fascinating not only as a movie, but also historically and politically. Recalling life in a country and culture that disappeared almost over night, it reveals a world of Trebants, Spreewald pickles and Mokkafix coffee. A cult hit in Germany, it is shown in history classes and was an event to which nostalgic moviegoers brought East German memorabilia and food.

With sets by Christian Schaefer and costume design by Aenne Plaumann, "Good Bye Lenin!" is a treasure trove of East German memorabilia and is awash with nostalgia. Backed by a moving soundtrack by Yann Tiersen ("Amelie"), it is at its core a heartbreaking story about family bonds, and the truth and lies that existed in many relationships in a Germany with a wall that divided friends, lovers and relatives.

Makes you think and laugh, one not forgotten soon

Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies