Now that uni has finally finished for the summer, I decided to get round to making a dent in the 1001 Films to See Before You Die book. After watching the excellent Deutschland 83 TV series earlier in the year, Goodbye Lenin! (2003) seemed like it would be another interesting viewpoint on German Unification, especially seeing as I am doing a module in German Cinema since 1990 next year.
Set in Berlin in 1989/90, it follows the story of a family from East Berlin as they adapt to the changes brought by the unification of Germany, with one hitch. The mother, a staunch socialist, has been in a coma since before the wall came down, waking up several months after with no idea what has happened. To prevent the recurrence of her illness from the shock, Alex (Daniel Bruhl) decides the pretend that nothing has changed and the socialist state of East Germany is still going strong.
While the rest of the country drinks Coca Cola and eats at Burger King, their little flat becomes an outpost of socialist style, fashion and life. From fake news reports, to desperately trying to recover the old furniture that was thrown away, Alex tries his best to reassure his mother, as well as himself, that everything is going to be all right.
Daniel Bruhl is brilliantly sweet, moving and ever so slightly controlling as Alex, trying to keep his family together, while Katrin Sass is quietly dignified, yet overwhelming convinced of the success of East Germany until the end of the film.
Goodbye Lenin! is one of those films that manages to be both funny and moving, without you really realising it was either until the climax. While the whole concept could, and is in some aspects, come across as really daft, the director and cast manage to make it believable and heart-warming. I’d definitely recommend it!