Good Bye, Lenin!  

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"Gorilla Bathes at Noon (1993) and Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) are useful films in this regard. Moreover, screening the films together allows students to contemplate how radically different film styles can be used to represent history." --Teaching Film Lucy Fischer, ‎Patrice Petro, 2012

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Good Bye, Lenin! is a German tragicomedy film, produced in 2001 and released in 2003. Directed by Wolfgang Becker, the cast includes Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova, and Maria Simon. Most scenes were shot at the Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin and around Plattenbauten near Alexanderplatz.

Plot

In a prologue, Alex Kerner (Daniel Brühl) recalls how proud he was as a child in 1978 when the first German to fly in outer space was the East German Sigmund Jähn.

The remainder of the film is set in East Berlin, from October 1989 to just after German reunification a year later. Alex lives with his sister, Ariane (Maria Simon), his mother, Christiane (Katrin Saß), and Ariane's infant daughter, Paula. It appears that his father abandoned the family and fled to the West in 1978. In his absence, Christiane has become an ardent supporter of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (the Party). Alex takes part in an anti-government demonstration, where he meets a girl by chance, but they are separated by the Volkspolizei before they can properly introduce themselves. When Christiane sees Alex being arrested, she suffers a near-fatal heart attack and falls into a coma. The police ignore Alexander's plea to assist his mother. They release him later that evening to go and see her.

While visiting his mother in the hospital, Alex again encounters the girl from the demonstration, Lara (Chulpan Khamatova), a young nurse from the Soviet Union who is now caring for his mother. Alex is smitten with her and asks her out. The two soon begin dating and develop a close bond.

Shortly afterward, the Berlin Wall falls. Erich Honecker resigns from office, and the East German police and military become increasingly toothless. Capitalism comes to East Berlin. Alex loses his job as a TV repairman, but is hired by a West German cable company. Alex is paired with West Berlin resident Denis Domaschke (Florian Lukas), an aspiring filmmaker with whom Alex quickly becomes good friends. Ariane leaves university to work at a Burger King drive-through. After eight months, Christiane awakens from her coma, but she is severely weakened both physically and mentally. Her doctor warns that any shock might cause another, possibly fatal, heart attack. Alex realises that the discovery of recent events would be too much for her to bear, and decides to maintain the illusion that things are as before in the German Democratic Republic.

He, Ariane and Lara revert from the gaudy decor of the west to the drab decor they previously had in the bedroom of their now bed-ridden mother in the family apartment, dress in their old clothes, and feed Christiane new Western produce they repackage in old East German jars. Their deception is successful, though increasingly complicated and elaborate. Christiane occasionally witnesses strange occurrences, such as a gigantic Coca-Cola advertisement banner unfurling on a building outside the apartment. With Denis's help, Alex edits old tapes of East German news broadcasts and creates fake reports on TV that he plays from a video machine hidden in an adjacent room to explain these odd events. As the old news shows were fairly predictable, and Christiane's memory is vague, she is initially fooled.

Christiane eventually gains strength and wanders outside one day while Alex is asleep. She sees all her neighbours' old furniture piled up in the street for rubbish collection and advertisements for Western corporations. She also sees an old statue of Lenin being flown away by a helicopter, which seems to reach out to her. However, Alex and Ariane quickly find her, take her home, and show her a fake special report that East Germany is now accepting refugees from the West following a severe economic crisis there. Christiane, initially sceptical, finally decrees that as good socialists, they should open their home to these newcomers. The family decides to go and inspect to their dacha in the countryside at Christiane's suggestion.

While they are there along with Lara and Ariane's new Western boyfriend, Rainer (Alexander Beyer), Christiane reveals her own secret; her husband had fled because the Party had been increasingly oppressing him, and the plan had been for the rest of the family to join him in West Berlin. However, Christiane, fearing the government would take Alex and Ariane away from her if things went wrong, chose to stay in the East. She has come to regret the decision over the years.

Christiane relapses shortly afterward and is taken back to the hospital. After meeting his father, Robert (Burghart Klaußner), for the first time in years, Alex sees that he has remarried and fathered a second family, but welcomes meeting Alex again. Alex convinces Robert to see Christiane one last time, stating he should say he was moved to return East to see his dying wife. Under pressure to reveal the truth about the fall of the East, Alex creates a final fake news segment, convincing a taxi driver whom he believes to be Sigmund Jähn to act in the false news report as the new leader of East Germany and to give a speech promising to make a better future including opening the borders to the West. However, it is suggested that Christiane already knows the truth (Lara tried to convince her about the real political developments earlier the same day). Nevertheless, she reacts fondly to her son's effort, without mentioning anything.

Christiane dies peacefully two days later: she outlives the GDR, passing away three days after full official German reunification. Alex, Ariane, Lara, Denis, and Robert scatter her ashes in the wind using an old toy rocket Alex made with his father during his childhood.

Cast




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Good Bye, Lenin!" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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