The film combines drama and comedy effectively in a largely engaging piece about how sociopolitics can affect the personal in absurd ways.
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
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: The Projector – German Film Festival 2019
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.