Goodbye Lenin! – A review
If Downfall shows a sophistication in German cinema, then the film Goodbye Lenin! proves that Germany has a fantastic film industry that is largely and criminally ignored. Goodbye Lenin! (2003) is a very good film, and it is shows another side of Germany that is often overlooked in that the film is also genuinely funny.
Goodbye Lenin! tells the story of Germany’s reconciliation, and the morphing between Capitalist west and Communist East, and the personal difficulties that many East Germans had in accepting and coming to terms with their new, freer if less structured life. All of this is seen through the eyes of Alex Kerner the protagonist, a young East German who longs for a freer life. This reunion is where most of the emotional impact in this film comes from; the comedy comes in the story of Alex trying to stop his staunchly Socialist mother (who suffered a heart attack during the reunion, and is told that if she suffers another large shock she might die) from finding out that the Cold War is over. He does this in a number of ingenious ways while he also tries to live his life, and embrace the new culture developing around him.
What is great about this film is that it pokes fun at the distrust between East and West born out of the Cold War instead of relying overtly on simple jokes, and the comedic elements of the film serve to also develop the characters. Because of this character development we are more attached to Alex as a person rather than just a character and we feel his frustration when the illusion he tries so hard to build becomes impossible to maintain. We also get a real sense of his sadness when he finds his father, who defected to the west when he was young.
Overall the film is a very funny and original piece that is greatly overlooked and underrated. There are a few anachronisms; but this is literally a small picking-point rather than a major problem with the film. The only real problem with the film is that the ending and some of the scenes are largely forgettable.
However, if you can look past some forgettable moments and a few anachronisms then Goodbye Lenin! is a film very much worth checking out; it is emotional, unique, well written and above all very well made.
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