Good Bye, Lenin!

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Good Bye, Lenin!
Good Bye Lenin.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Becker
Produced byStefan Arndt
Written byWolfgang Becker
Bernd Lichtenberg
StarringDaniel Brühl
Katrin Saß
Chulpan Khamatova
Maria Simon
Alexander Beyer
Music byYann Tiersen
Claire Pichet
Antonello Marafioti
CinematographyMartin Kukula
Editing byPeter R. Adam
StudioX-Filme Creative Pool
Distributed byX Verleih AG (Germany)
Sony Pictures Classics (US)
Release dates
  • 13 February 2003 (2003-02-13)
Running time121 minutes
CountryGermany
LanguageGerman
Budget4.8 million (approx. $6.5 million)
Box office$79,384,880
 
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Good Bye, Lenin!
Good Bye Lenin.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byWolfgang Becker
Produced byStefan Arndt
Written byWolfgang Becker
Bernd Lichtenberg
StarringDaniel Brühl
Katrin Saß
Chulpan Khamatova
Maria Simon
Alexander Beyer
Music byYann Tiersen
Claire Pichet
Antonello Marafioti
CinematographyMartin Kukula
Editing byPeter R. Adam
StudioX-Filme Creative Pool
Distributed byX Verleih AG (Germany)
Sony Pictures Classics (US)
Release dates
  • 13 February 2003 (2003-02-13)
Running time121 minutes
CountryGermany
LanguageGerman
Budget4.8 million (approx. $6.5 million)
Box office$79,384,880

Good Bye, Lenin![1] is a 2003 German tragicomedy film. 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[edit]

In a prologue, Alex Kerner (Daniel Brühl) recalls as a child in 1978 how proud he was along with his countrymen when the first German to enter space, Sigmund Jähn, came from East Germany (the GDR).

The remainder of the film is set in East Berlin, spanning 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. His father fled to the West in 1978, apparently abandoning the family. In his absence, Christiane has become an ardent idealist and supporter of the ruling Socialist Unity Party of Germany (the Party). Alex takes part in an an anti-government demonstration, where he meets a girl by chance, but they are separated by the riot police before they could 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, instead releasing him later that evening to go and see her.

While visiting his mother at the hospital, Alex again meets the girl from the demonstration, who is revealed to be Lara (Chulpan Khamatova), a young nurse from the Soviet Union taking care of his mother. Alex becomes smitten with her and asks her out. The two soon begin dating and develop a close bond.

Shortly afterward, the Berlin Wall falls. In that time, capitalism comes to East Berlin, and Alex loses his job before "winning" a new position in a lottery to install satellite dishes with West Berlin resident Denis Domaschke (Florian Lukas), an aspiring filmmaker with whom Alex quickly becomes good friends, while Ariane leaves university to work at a Burger King drive-through. After eight months, Christiane awakes, but is severely weakened both physically and mentally. Her doctor asserts 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 so sets out to maintain the illusion that things are as before in the German Democratic Republic.

To this end, he, Ariane and Lara revert from the gaudy decor of the west to the drab decor they previously had in the bedroom of their mother (who is now bed-ridden) in the family apartment, dress in their old clothes, and feed Christiane new Western produce from old-labeled jars. Their deception is successful, albeit 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 (played 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 an Mi 8 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 to their dacha 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 away Alex and Ariane if things went wrong, chose to stay in the East. She has come to regret the decision over time.

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 convinces him to meet Christiane again. 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, Alex is unaware that Christiane had already been informed of the situation the nation was going through by Lara earlier the same day. She reacts fondly to her son's effort, without telling him she had already acknowledged what had happened in the past few months.

Christiane dies peacefully two days later: she outlives the GDR, passing away three days after full official German reunification. Alex, Ariane, Lara, and Denis scatter her ashes in the wind (despite this being illegal in both East and West Germany) using an old toy rocket Alex had made with his father during his childhood.

Cast[edit]

Soundtrack[edit]

The film score is composed by Yann Tiersen, except the version of "Summer 78" which is sung by Claire Pichet. Stylistically, the music is very similar to Tiersen's prior work on the soundtrack to Amélie (in fact one piano composition, Comptine d'un Autre Eté: L'Apres Midi, is in both films), but is missing Amélie's trademark accordion waltzes.

Several famous GDR songs are sung and heard. Two children, purportedly members of the Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation, sing Unsere Heimat (Our Homeland). Friends of Christiane (living in the same building) follow with Bau Auf! Bau Auf! (Build Up! Build Up!), another anthem, of the Free German Youth. The final fake newscast with Sigmund Jähn features a rousing crescendo of the GDR national anthem, Auferstanden aus Ruinen.

Reception[edit]

The film received strong positive reviews, holding a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.[2] Empire gave the film four stars out of five with a verdict of, "An ingenious little idea that is funny, moving and—gasp!—even makes you think."[3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

BAFTA Awards
César Award
European Film Awards
German Film Awards
Golden Globe Awards
Goya Awards
London Film Critics' Circle
Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010

References to other films[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Talk to Her
European Film Award for Best European Film
2003
Succeeded by
Head-On
Preceded by
The Pianist
Goya Award for Best European Film
2003
Succeeded by
Head-On