Monday, November 26, 2007
Goodbye Lenin (my personal favourite)
The film is set in the East Berlin of 1989 . Alexander Kerner's mother, Christiane Kerner, an ardent supporter of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, suffers a heart attack when she sees Alex being arrested in an anti-government demonstration and falls into a coma shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall. After eight months she awakes, but is severely weakened both physically and mentally, and doctors say that any shock may cause another, possibly fatal, attack. Alex realises that her discovery of recent events would be too much for her to bear, and so sets out to maintain the illusion that things are as normal in the German Democratic Republic. To this end, he and his family revert the flat to its previous drab decor, dress in their old clothes, and feed the bed-ridden Christiane new, Western produce from old labeled jars. For a time the deception works, but gradually becomes increasingly complicated and elaborate. Despite everything, Christiane occasionally witnesses strange occurrences, such as a gigantic Coca-Cola advertisement banner unfurling on a building outside the apartment. Alexander and a friend with film-making ambitions edit old tapes of news broadcasts and create their own fake special reports to explain them away.
In one scene, Christiane wanders outside the flat while Alex is asleep, and sees all her neighbours' old furniture piled up in the street for garbage collection, a car dealer selling BMWs instead of Trabants and advertisements for such Western corporations as IKEA. Then, a huge military helicopter flies past carrying the upper half of an enormous statue of Lenin, which at an angle appears to be offering Christiane his hand. Alex and his sister find her and take her back to the flat. Alex and his friend create a fake special report stating that East Germany is accepting refugees from the West.
A subplot involves the earlier defection to the West of Alexander's father when Alexander was a child, an event which apparently drove his mother temporarily insane, and which prompted her ardent support of the party. Later it is revealed that the defection was planned by them both, but she bailed out to protect her children. Alexander's sister Ariane, now working in a Burger King drive-through, one day sees her father with a new family. Christiane later admits the deception and Alexander goes to find his father, partly for himself and his sister, and partly to honour Christiane's dying wish that she see him one last time. On the way, Alex meets a taxi driver who looks just like his childhood hero, Sigmund Jähn, the first German in space.
Christiane relapses, and is once again taken to the hospital. Under pressure to reveal the truth about the fall of the East, Alexander creates one final fake film segment. Alexander convinces the taxi driver to identify himself as Sigmund Jähn, who in the segment becomes the new leader of East Germany, and gives a speech promising to make a better future by opening the borders to the West. Christiane is very impressed by the "broadcast," but in fact already knows the truth, as Alexander's girlfriend revealed everything when Alexander was not around. The tables are turned completely, and it is Alex who is being protected from reality. Christiane dies soon afterwards, and Alex never knows that she did, in the end, know the truth.