Goodbye, Lenin! (2003)

The film combines drama and comedy effectively in a largely engaging piece about how sociopolitics can affect the personal in absurd ways. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Wolfgang Becker
2003 | Germany | Drama/Comedy | 121 mins | 1.85:1 | German, English & Russian
M18 (passed clean) for brief language and sexuality

Cast: Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova
Plot: In 1990, to protect his fragile mother from a fatal shock after a long coma, a young man must keep her from learning that her beloved nation of East Germany as she knew it has disappeared.
Awards: Won Blue Angel & Nom. for Golden Bear (Berlin); Nom. for Best Foreign Language Film (Golden Globes)
Source: Bavaria Screen Intl / Sony Pictures Classics

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: The Projector – German Film Festival 2019
Spoilers: No

It is interesting to note that composer Yann Tiersen, who scored for this film, also made music for Amelie (2001).  In fact, if you listen closely, you might spot a track originally composed for Amelie in Goodbye, Lenin! 

Like Amelie, Goodbye, Lenin! was one of the most popular foreign-language films of the early 2000s.  And it’s easy to see why. If arthouse-type films can be accessible to more mainstream viewers, then this crowd-pleasing German movie might just have the not-so-secret formula. 

It helps having an intriguing story idea: Set in 1990, a woman’s beloved East Germany doesn’t exist anymore, and it is up to her son to shield her from the truth after she wakes up from a long coma. 

“All this stuff has to go. Are the old curtains in the cellar?”
“You can’t be serious.”

Part-drama, part-comedy, Goodbye, Lenin! combines both genres effectively in a largely engaging piece about how socio-politics can affect the personal in absurd ways. 

Daniel Bruhl delivers a memorable performance as Alex, the son in question, in a breakout role (he would later star opposite Chris Hemsworth in the car racing drama, Rush, a decade later). 

While certainly entertaining, the best thing about Goodbye, Lenin! is its ‘fun’ treatment of history in a way that makes us understand a bit more about the fall of a socialist state. 

From ‘fake news’ (rather prescient) that reimagines the past to playful use of mise-en-scene such as props and costumes as staging devices, Goodbye Lenin! is clever filmmaking with a sensitive heart. 

Grade: A-



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