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    Goodbye, Lenin!

    Achtung in cheek

    The German comedy "Goodbye Lenin" tells a warm, human story about a young man's ruse to deceive his mother when she wakes up from a coma and doesn't know communism is gone.

    By TRAV S.D.

    How soon we forget. It was only fifteen years ago that jackbooted communist soldiers still goosestepped around East Germany, shooting on sight anyone brave or crazy enough to attempt escape. In November 1989, the wall came crashing down, and after an awkward period of adjustment, Germany became the unified scion of "old Europe" it is today.

    Directed by: Wolfgang Becker.
    Written by: Wolfgang Becker, Hendrik Handloegten, Bernd Lichtenberg, Achim von Borries.
    Cast: Daniel Brčhl, Katrin Saž, Maria Simon, Chulpan Khamatova, Florian Lukas, Alexander Beyer, Burghart Klaužner, Michael Gwisdek.
    Cinematography: Martin Kukula.
    Against this epic backdrop, German director Wolfgang Becker projects a warm, human comedy of intimate dimensions. In "Goodbye Lenin!" a young man named Alex (Daniel Brčhl) devises an elaborate scheme to keep his mother (Katrin Sass), who has just awakened from a coma, from learning that eight months earlier her beloved East German Republic had gone the way of the dodo. To carry out his plan, he enlists family, friends, and neighbors to maintain the illusion. He rebottles western pickles in old East German jars. He hires two kids to put on little blue kerchiefs and sing patriotic socialist songs. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola trucks are rumbling through the Brandenburg Gate in an invasion oddly reminiscent of 1945.

    Goodbye, Lenin!  
    This might strike you as the stuff of broad farce, and indeed it could be. But Becker has arrived at something much richer — a small story, grounded in the emotional reality of a handful of characters, that is nonetheless rooted in, and illustrative of, large historical events.

    Alex's love for his mother is touching, if just a tad twisted. The effect is underlined by Brčhl's Bud Cort-like Baby Man physiognomy. Here is a man who loves his mom just a little too much. So much so, that it ceases to be a virtue and starts to become a fault. Alex's lie mushrooms into an elaborate chain of mini-lies that make a sort of mockery of his mother's life, and become a burden to everybody participating in Alex's complicated scheme. Altruistic in intention, it is like the lie of East German socialism ... a big pain in the ass that seemed like a good idea at the time.

    To underscore the degree to which Alex "becomes" East Germany, Becker has him and his filmmaker-wannabe buddy (Florian Lukas) create fake newscasts and juxtapose them with stock footage ... much in the Orwellian tradition of the former authorities. Interestingly, Becker creates his effective tale by doing the very same thing.

    FEBRUARY 20, 2004

    Reader comments on Goodbye, Lenin!:

  • wow!   from Niels, Mar 1, 2004
  • go see it   from j, Mar 24, 2004
  • [no subject]   from Tanya, May 17, 2004
  • Hello Lenin!   from sylvie, May 25, 2004
  • [no subject]   from , Oct 2, 2004
  • Re: comments on goodbye, lenin   from me, May 29, 2005
  • Great film!   from Alex, Nov 13, 2005
  • Cute!   from PhD, Feb 5, 2006
  • Good By Lenin   from stuart, Oct 17, 2006

  • Post a comment on "Goodbye, Lenin!"