I first attempted to watch this film eight years ago when it was shown to us on my first day of University. Unfortunately that day there was a problem with the projector and the film cut out half way through. Here I am, eight years later having finally finished it with a review.
I think that the idea behind the film is brilliant. It is 1989 in
East Berlin and a hard line Communist mother watches as her son is arrested for taking part in a reunification rally. Upon seeing his arrest, the mother has a heart attack and falls into a coma. Eight months pass by during which the Berlin Wall falls and capitalism sweeps through East Berlin, which is now reunified with the west. When the mother eventually wakes up she is in a very fragile state and her son is told that any excitement or surprises could kill her. He then has to try to maintain the lie that East Berlin is still under control from in an attempt to keep his mother alive. Moscow
The film is quite funny in places and interesting throughout. I felt that about fifteen minutes could have been cut from the middle third as it sags slightly there but then it builds up to a tremendous final half hour. Some of the lengths the son goes to, to maintain the lie are extraordinary but two in particular stand out. He uses his budding film director friend to make up eight months of news and also borrows an ex-Cosmonaught turned taxi driver for an emotional and loving scene.
The acting is very naturalistic. The whole cast seem very at ease and almost unaware that the camera is on them.
East Berlin (one of my favourite places) looks great. We don’t see much of it but what we do see are the brutal Communist buildings that give it its signature look.
|Part of what remains of the wall today. Taken by me in 2010|
Overall, Good Bye, Lenin! Is an interesting film with some funny moments and a lot of heart. There is enough politics in there for people who are interested in the reunification but not too much so that it would overpower it for those who are not.
Aditional - For a review of the Oscar winning The Lives of Others, which has shares a time and place with this film, click here.