Goodbye, Lenin!: A Blast from the Past

Upon watching the first few minutes of the film, one can already establish that this is not your ordinary historical movie. It does not simply talk about the fall of the Berlin Wall and its effects on society as a whole, but does so in a charming tragicomedy that is Goodbye, Lenin!. It follows the story of a young man, Alex Kerner, and his undertaking with regards to trying to preserve the German Democratic Republic that his mother once knew and loved in order to keep her from having a fatal heart attack.

What I found the most appealing throughout the whole film was that it was able to cover a multitude of genres into one. It blends together historical events, drama, comedy, and even romance to the equation. At first glance, it might not seem to be a good idea to mix together all these in order to make a film, but Becker does an exceptional job in balancing the different kinds of emotions while trying to tell an odd, yet compelling story. One funny scene that stood out to me was when siblings Ariane and Alex were explaining to their mother what happened when she collapsed and fell into a coma. Alex conjured up a fake story saying, “It was in October, in the supermarket. There was this enormous queue and it was really hot and you just passed out.” After being asked by his mom, “In October?” he replied, “It was an unusually hot October day,” as the audience snickered. These scenes show us how the characters are all quirky in their own way, but likeable nonetheless.

Even though there were plenty of light-hearted scenes to get the ball rolling, a lot of the heavier ones still pulled at the audience’s heart strings. The overarching theme, which revolved around the juxtaposition of the old regime and what conspired after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was able to be told in a way that was still relevant to our times today. We are still experiencing many forms of discrimination, different mentalities in politics, and fights about values within the family. Politics, culture and morals are actually inevitable to be mixed together whether people realize it or not, and Goodbye, Lenin! does a good job putting this into light. Alex’s once miniscule idea of preserving the GDR within his mother’s room turned out to become one whole production including using the old condiment containers, placing old European furniture, and paying little kids to sing the anthem his mother wrote. It shows us that Alex’s world was conflicted and a part of him wanted to relive the nostalgia, he even said that the GDR he created might’ve become the one he wished for.

Throughout the whole movie, it was a ride of emotions and unexpected twists and turns. The audience went along with Alex’s masquerade and even rooted for him as he thought on his feet whenever he faced a roadblock. But in the end, it taught us to see the good in humanity, however flawed we might be. The film’s ending couldn’t have been any more appropriate, as Alex and his aspiring filmmaker friend Denis made one last fake news broadcast to explain the fall of the GDR to his mother. With a Sigmund Jähn lookalike as the “new leader” of East Germany, he goes on to explain that “Socialism means reaching out to others and living with other. Not just to dream about a better world, but to make the world a better place,” and that the GDR has “opened borders”. His mother died three days after hearing this, and her ashes were scattered in the wind through an old toy rocket. Alex’s narration after that is both sentimental, insightful, and uniquely his. Never did I think I would enjoy a movie so much about the reunification of Germany and the struggles of a son with his overly socialist mother, but Goodbye, Lenin! makes you do just that.

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