Good Bye Lenin! (2003) (R)
"Good Bye Lenin!" though oddly humorous and filled with references that the Western—no pun intended—mind cannot comprehend without a deep history of Germany, is a deeply touching movie.
If you know me, you know that I'm a sentimental fool, I tear up when watching the Discovery channel—it happens to the best of us. This means that "Good Bye Lenin!" is the kind of movie that's targeted right at me.
Though the movie's beginning is charming and well-constructed (it's impossible to avoid what Tarantino and the digital age did for film, exemplified best here) feels like it's thrusting you from one situation into the other. If you like being pushed around that's fine, if you don't it may come across a little forceful. But not long into the movie there's a deep silence and a slight pause...this is where the movie turns and it is great after this moment.
Alex and Ariane are siblings in East Germany. They have a father who is a cosmonaut and is working with the Westerners, traveling to space. Naturally his allegiances are tested, Alex and Ariane's mother is bombarded with questions and accusations. But their father never comes home...he finds that the Western women are easy to sleep with and their mother slips into a depression, not speaking to them for eight weeks.
After her mourning period—a state of shock would be more apropos—their mother returns and their life can begin again.
Alex (Daniel Brühl) narrates our story and it's his opinion on everything that we receive. Most movies would like to convince you that their narrator has no opinion, or at least, if he does, he's right. The narrator is a moral being, one that the audience can easily identify with—no so with "Good Bye Lenin!". To our minds, to our sight, to our ears, Alex is a socialist; but one that's very easy to like...and hey, who doesn't love Daniel Brühl?
Alex hypothesizes that the lack of sex in his mother's life gives her extra energy which she expends on being a good Eastern German. She receives awards for how wonderfully loyal she is and she sees herself as a helper to the people.
But Alex isn't satisfied with the socialism of the state and he feels his ideals shifted West.
Ten years after their mother recovered from her depression, the kids have grown up and Alex is right smack-dab in the middle of raging adolescence...bless his heart.
Ariane has a daughter from an ended relationship and the siblings' mother is busier than ever, trying to preserve the dignity of their country. One night, when the walks to open the wall first began, Alex decides to participate. The rioters don't get very far and, seeing her son participating in the ruckus, Alex's mother suffers a heart attack and slips into a coma.
Now left to their own devices, the siblings find themselves in a quickly changing world. The wall comes down, East and West unite, their money becomes useless...their world is turned up on end...and their mother remains "asleep".
They both find love, a sweet, summer affair that turns serious for both of them. Alex's severity is part of the attraction that a student nurse named Lara has towards him. The two are incredibly wonderful together.
But then, the unthinkable occurs, mom wakes up. Told that she could suffer another heart attack any day and that she doesn't have much time left, Alex is given instructions not to let anything excite his mom. He takes this to heart and decides that the union of Germany would be too much for a die-hard socialist so he denies his mother that information. He begins a charade, one that is doomed from the beginning.
What's great about "Good Bye Lenin!" is that it is not that challenging. Every frame of the film is filled with love, love for mother, love for lover, love for self (yes, that's sometimes necessary). It's a film that will not haunt the viewer with complex ideas; yet it is smart enough to stand up to the eye of scrutiny.
The film has very poetic sequences and is, plainly said, a joy to watch. It's not a perfect film; but it is as touching as anything I've seen recently. Filled with more nuances than expected, "Good Bye Lenin!" provides a different opinion on the fall of the Berlin Wall.
As Alex tries to keep this historical event a secret, he finds that he might be adopting his mother's old school of philosophy.
Daniel Brühl always delivers great performances, here is no exception. He gives us a complex character, impossible to understand in the first five minutes.
"Good Bye Lenin!" may not be perfect, but who cares?
Socialism has never looked this good.
Posted by Micah Jones