Goodbye Lenin

The city of Berlin has many ghosts to exorcise. During the last century it was possessed by demonic spirit of Nazism and then it became the battleground of competing ideologies of communism and capitalism. At the end of the Cold War, a new and unified nation emerged from the ashes of the past. It may have been the triumph of capitalism but not everyone exulted when the wall came down. Party apparatchiks and high ranking cadres were left confused and befuddled. For fifty years what had become a life style was suddenly destroyed and torn asunder. Those dedicated to the former communist regime were left jobless and without a purpose in life. Goodbye Lenin is a movie that poignantly brings across the tragedy in the lives of those, who were raised in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and who came to believe in the Party ideals.

Described as a tragicomedy, Goodbye Lenin is a movie in German language which was produced in 2001 and released in 2003. It can be seen with English subtitles and is considered a classic that truly sums up the change that visited German around the turn of the last century. 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.

It is a story of a woman in East Germany, whose husband has apparently deserted her for the allure of the West to raise her two young children, a son and a daughter alone. As the political scene in Europe moves towards a dénouement, the son takes part in a demonstration against the communist regime is hauled up by the East German police. The mother sees her son being beaten and arrested and suffers a heart attack. Her condition worsens and goes up into deep coma. The boy is released in the evening to visit her mother. There he comes across a young nurse, whom he had met at the demonstration. The two fall in love. The mother remains in deep sleep for eight months and wakes up after the Berlin Wall has broken down, Erick Honecker is gone and socialism has given way to capitalism. By this time the son Alex has lost his job as a TV repairman and has been hired by a West German cable TV company and is paired with a young West German, who is an aspiring film maker. The daughter Ariane leaves her studies in the university to become a Burger king drive through attendant.

The doctor warns the family that the mother should under no circumstances be shocked or she would suffer a relapse. Thereafter with Alex in the lead it becomes a struggle for the family and their friends to resurrect former East Germany for the mother to let her lead a life that she has always believed in. It is humorous to see how the house is restored to its former austerity and how bits and pieces of the old products brought into the house to keep the mother from learning about the changes that have taken place around her. Fake TV programs and news reports are made and eating products repackaged to keep the charade alive. In between the long lost father is also found and it is learnt by the children to their utter chagrin that he had not abandoned them but that their mother had actually refused to open the letters that he had been sending to them. There are a number of hilarious escapades but in the background the hurt and the loss felt by the East German keeps playing out as the mother finally dies happily in the state she had always believed in.