Review: Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)

This is one film I can watch again and again. It is a feel good movie that will make you laugh, cry, and then go hug your mother. Don’t worry if you haven’t brushed up on your post WWII history, you’ll still enjoy this movie set around the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Good Bye, Lenin! introduced international audiences to the talented Daniel Brühl, who would later be cast in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Here he plays Alex, a young man whose mother has fallen into a coma and awakens following the collapse of the wall that had separated their socialist side of Berlin from its western counterpart. Her doctor informs him that any shock would be the end for her. Your heart will race along with Alex’s as he does everything in his power to prevent his mother from realizing that her beloved Socialist Party and Spreewälder pickles are no more.

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One of the best aspects of the film is the soundtrack by the gifted Yann Tiersen. The instrumentals do not intrude during tense scenes, but rather they provide a soft backdrop that gives viewers a strong sense of nostalgia. The light score also reminds us of Alex’s child-like innocence as he tries to prevent the inevitable, the loss of one’s parent.

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Good Bye, Lenin! has many comedic moments that separate it from darker European dramas, thus making it an easy film to watch. Melancholic scenes are followed by almost slapstick consequences as Alex’s bid to conceal capitalist infiltration becomes more and more difficult. For example, how does one go about hiding a fifty foot tall Coca Cola banner? As the film progresses the elephant in the room only grows larger much to Alex’s dismay.

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Lara the nurse, played by the lovely Chulpan Khamatova, is his beacon of light. She goes along willingly with Alex’s game, unlike his sister who protests at every occasion. The chemistry between Lara and Alex adds a touch of romance to this light drama. For me, her character is essential for him to see past his obsession of concealing every detail from his mother. By the end she becomes the much needed patient voice of reason.

Bottom Line

Ready to dive into foreign films? Start with this lighthearted German language drama by Wolfgang Becker. You’ll get a neat glimpse into life in Germany following the slow infiltration of the west into the previously socialist East Berlin. Add to the experience, by enjoying the film with a cold glass of Coca Cola.

Directed by Wolfgang Becker
Cast includes Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova, and Florian Lukas

Screen captures copyright X-Filme Creative Pool

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