Goodbye, Lenin!

Wolfgang Becker’s 2003 hit comedy; Goodbye Lenin, follows the struggle of a devoted son (Alex Kerner) and his elaborate scheme to keep his sick, socialist mother (Christiane) from finding out about the unification of Germany.  Alex’s mother remains comatose after a heart attack, through the fall of the Berlin Wall and German Democratic Republic, knowing that the slightest shock could prove to be fatal for his mother, Alex covers up all knowledge and evidence that shows the new united Germany, allowing her to eventually pass away blissfully unaware of the collapse of her precious GDR.

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Through the retracing of the Kerner’s family problems, Becker symbolises the attempt of Germany as a whole in trying to rebuild itself.     In historical context, the film offers the viewer little, too no insight into the political era, showing no glance at how life is and how life was. Becker appears to focus more on the East German people’s perspective, rather than the political history involved, the political history is mentioned little, gaging focus purely on the Kerner’s family issues.  This choice by Becker has said to what makes Goodbye Lenin, one of the only films to date, to accurately portray the struggle of an East German during and after the fall of the Berlin wall.  Showing the disregard for East German commodities, changing the products to globally acknowledged brands or the changing of currency, Becker displays the harsh change that had to be so quickly accepted by the population of East Germans.

Although the film follows the re-unification of German, many critics have picked up on the lack in mention of the negative side of the GDR, the film almost holds the GDR on a podium, that is not to be mentioned as a politically dark time for Germany, but as history that is not to be spoke of in order to rebuild Germany.   Goodbye Lenin!  Allows the viewer to sympathise with the socialist mother, by never mentioning the Bautzen, or how the Stasi spied on their supporters, this Leninised, Soviet influenced political party is not treated as a destructive factor which maybe it should be.  Instead its supporters are the centre of sympathy throughout the film, we have to go through the process of change with Alex, and we have to watch him adapting his new world into an almost utopian GDR in some respects. Whilst Alex is changing his world around him for his mother, we as the viewer forget that he was a somewhat proud East German citizen, and instead uphold him as the ‘hero’.  Becker has been picked up on many times on why he upholds East Germany positively, but no answers surfaced.   Many critics previously have put the lack of political engagement in the film down the generation that is being focused on.  Alex and his sister Ariane, are the age that had no interest in politics or the lifestyle they lead, this is portrayed somewhat through the films lack in political background.

The fall of the wall, although freeing the East Germans from the lack of free speech, the political prisoners, the right to vote for political change, many lost their jobs and were made homeless; this was due to the establishment of capitalism and lack of Soviet aid.  Again this factor is not portrayed, we see Ariane getting a job at Burger King, thanks to the injection of global commodities into their society, Alex gets a job installing satellite television almost immediately. They do not appear to have any problems with the high unemployment rate that followed in East Berlin.

Although a good, if slightly long, film, Goodbye Lenin plays little to no part in educating in East Berlin’s old communist ideologies. It does however; show the struggle many political leaders and supporters had in saying goodbye to all things communism, which was placed upon certain generations, this being that of Christiane’s.   This is done seemingly through the injection of colour and other visual aids, the Coke-Cola banners being placed on the side of buildings in the east, the billboards with branding on and gaudy colours used to symbolise the west moving into the east.  Visual representation is accurate throughout the film, the contrast between Christiane’s bedroom that is all things communist, it is dull and conservative, to that of the outside world allow the viewer to gagewhat is changing in Berlin, without the heavy political background.

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