After four confusing and unconventional film screenings, Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) is arguably the most enjoyable film we have watched in our European Cinema class so far. It’s a fun and grappling display of grit and heart. The enjoyable quality of the movie may be attributed to the fact that it has adhered to the features of dominant cinema with which we are so used to. We go back to Peter Wollen’s essay on these features to assess the movie.
In terms of narrative transitivity, the emplotment of the film’s narrative was digestible and easily understandable. As I watched the movie, I understood why the events being displayed are happening, and why they must happen. For instance, why does Alex exert so much effort in fabricating this world which his mom is accustomed to–so as not to risk his mother’s health. All of the why’s in terms of the plot were answered reasonably by the film.
The movie also had characters which we identified with. Their experiences and emotions are accessible to us, and their actions and motivations are clear–so much so that we find ourselves rooting for their causes. I found Alex to be a particularly likable character because somehow I resonated with his intentions. I bet that if my mother were under the same conditions, I would do as he did in the movie. We identify with his desire to protect his mother, we admire his perseverance despite the disequilibrium of the worlds he is currently occupying, we understand the logic behind his actions. All these make Alex one of the identifiable characters in the film.
The film also presented us with a world in which everything made sense within the context of the world i.e., a single diegesis. The events, characters, and details in the film cohered to a single world. None of the elements seemed anachronistic or out-of-place. It is interesting to note, however, how our main character was sort of inhabiting two worlds in the film, yet we still understand that all of these things are happening within a unified world.
As I mentioned earlier, this film was definitely enjoyable because of how easy the movie experience was given how familiar we are with the way it was made. The comedic moments also gave us a lot of laughs–probably the most laughs I’ve heard in the five screenings we had. The entertainment value of the film juxtaposed with its subject matter is fascinating to me. Dominant cinema, at least as described by Wollen, is characterized by its attempt to escape reality, which is why it’s so amusing to watch. However, Good Bye, Lenin! sort of confronts us with the atrocious realities of European politics at the time. I admire the film’s capability to provide a great viewing experience despite a heavily politicized narrative.
The difficulty I had in watching the film was of a contingent kind. Not being well-versed with European history gave me a sense of alienation while watching the film. Although snippets of historical background were provided throughout, I couldn’t help but feel a little detached from the film. However, that did not prevent me from enjoying myself. Overall, Good Bye, Lenin! was a nice palate cleanser from all of the arthouse-y films we have watched in class so far.