Goodbye, Lenin! is a testament to how film can be creatively harnessed to encapsulate significant historical and political events in our current world in a way that both entertains its viewers, as well as reminds us of the significance and impact said events had on the people who lived through it – a balance of which, I believe, the film did perfectly.
Goodbye, Lenin! Was a film quite obviously premised on a tragedy, placed in the context of a major world event that wracked ambivalence on the world, and on the people of Germany. However, despite the films comedic and entertaining sequences that thus succeeded in entertaining its viewers, and that allowed it to be labelled a tragicomedy, it did so without once making light of the actual, tangible consequences wrought about by the fall of the Berlin Wall.
One thing I noticed regarding films depicting major world events is the tendency to focus on human relationships, thus in a sense providing a more intimate perspective and look into global experiences otherwise unfathomable to us. By placing focus on specific relationships between families, lovers, etc., we as viewers are able to empathise with how these people felt. As individuals who are unable to experience these events firsthand, we get a sense of their impact on the people who did experience these events. For individuals watching who were actively present during the transpiration of events, viewing films about them may be a way to relive the experience from another person’s perspective. The impact of centering on specific characters in the context of huge social issues allow for the fathomability of drastic events in world and human history.
The ability and active desire for the film to allow viewer empathy for the characters is a stark contrast from the films prior discussed in the class. The film uses relatable characters to present an otherwise unrelatable scenario. Prior films such as A Woman is a Woman, on the other hand, present generally unreliable or difficult-to-relate to characters acting in regular everyday scenarios. La’Adventura seemed to go out of its way to create an assembly of characters the viewer lacks empathy for. While Goodbye, Lenin! Depicts a rather unique story in the midst of an actual event of our world’s history, the film nonetheless goes out of its way to create characters exhibiting emotions and actions relatable to any human person.
The human need to live in an extended period of temporality is something perhaps we can all relate to – the nostalgia and desire to live in the (presumably) less complicated past is a basic human instinct. The main character represents this to the extreme – hiding the fall of the Berlin Wall from his mother who is unaware of any of these events. The son’s actions are something which can also be attributed to another rather relatable human emotion – love and dedication for one’s mother. The family in the story are reminiscent of not uncommon family dynamics in society – the absentee father, the (rather) wayward sister, etc. All of these constitute aspects of human life we can somehow relate to, thus allowing us to empathise and relate and connect to these characters, as we try to understand why they do what they do in the context of a highly difficult scenario. Despite the fall of the Berlin Wall being the major historical situation depicted from which arise these events in the film’s story, the fall simply served as a means by which to emphasize the actual story – human dynamics, and family and romantic relationships, and human actors in a confluence of relationships, and how these relationships persevere in the context not just of the fall but of any rather disastrous event life humanity has been able to supercede.