Good Bye, Lenin!

Good Bye, Lenin!

2003, R, 118 min. Directed by Wolfgang Becker. Starring Daniel Brühl, Katrin Sass, Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon, Florian Lukas, Alexander Beyer.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 9, 2004

Extremely popular in its home country of Germany and throughout the European continent, this gentle comedy pokes fun at the Germany of pre- and post-unification. While evidencing nostalgia for some of the communist conditions and products in the former East Germany, the movie also mocks the consumerism and prosperity of the new united Germany. It’s a confident and mature mockery that accepts neither side without exceptions, but it’s also a bittersweet tone piece that finds the new Germany undergoing something of an identity crisis. Set in 1989 during the final days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the film’s comedy rests on one key factor: A loyal East German mother (Sass) sees her son (Brühl) at a demonstration and collapses in the street and falls into a coma that lasts several months – enough for the wall to come down and for Germany to reunify. When she awakes from her coma, the world as she knew it has vanished, but due to her precarious state her physician advises her family that the slightest shock could kill her. Her son Alex interprets this to mean that he should keep his mother from knowing the truth about her dismantled homeland. Toward this effort, he reclaims the old pasteboard furniture they had discarded in order to turn his mother’s bedroom to its former drabness. He scours garbage cans for old jars and labels into which he can transfer new food products into the old packaging of the communist brands. Everyone who comes into her bedroom must change from their bright, new clothing (or in his sister’s case, her new Burger King uniform) into their bland, ill-fitting communist garb, and Alex creates newly videotaped newsreel footage with his buddy that creates a fictional Germany of the imagination – a fantasy that may be more to Alex’s liking than anything in his reality. Of course, reality has a way of invading this self-created fiction, and the film’s humor comes from Alex’s inventive struggles to keep the inevitable from happening. Some of the film’s laughs no doubt play more forcefully among those more intimate than U.S. audiences with the deprivations and inanities of life in the former communist republic. Still, the film seems overlong and drawn out, with variations on the same joke occurring throughout. Although the performances are good, the nostalgia for the past seems quaint in the new "have it your way" Burger King world.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Daniel Brühl Films
My Zoe
Can a mother's love conquer death? Maybe science can help …

Feb. 26, 2021

7 Days in Entebbe
The 1976 hijacking of Air France Flight 139, retold again.

Richard Whittaker, March 16, 2018

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Story of America's itinerant population wanders too much

Feb. 19, 2021

The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021


Good Bye, Lenin!, Wolfgang Becker, Daniel Brühl, Katrin Sass, Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon, Florian Lukas, Alexander Beyer

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle