Goodbye Lenin is a film about family and the past regime of the Socialist Unity Party. When a single mother comes into coma, waking to a radically changed reality, how does her son Alex and daughter Ariane, keeping their mother in the dark for her health and safety. Though it is a moral dilemma to lie to one’s own mother, it this justifiable if the truth could very well shock her to death? This film addresses a historical reality, which is the taking down of the Berlin Wall, to a somewhat fantasy scenario in which Alex has to recreate the past regime and the society within it. Alex goes to great lengths for the safety of her mother – still believing that the Socialist Unity Party is active to this day.
This film, released in the year 2003, melds both historical truths in a stroke of fantasy to a ridiculous scenario of recreating old Germany. Since the new wave of industrialization and entrance of democratic and western attitudes, the film compares and contrasts the ideas of socialism developed in old Germany and the newer, more westernized ideals embodied after the events of the unification of Germany. The family becomes a symbol of the state of Germany, perhaps after its unification, where people of east (socialist) and west come together -bearing different norms, culture, and traditions with them. Since the coma of their mother, Alex and Ariene find ways to adapt to their new nation, finding means to coping with the situations presented to them. On the other hand, Alex’s mother, left at a stasis due to her coma, is forced to adapt to rapid changed, which doctors have advised to Alex would lead to her own death. Alex’s mother, holding to heart the dream of a Socialist Germany, has to live in a state in which she believes that can still come true. In that sense, the film drives home themes of sacrifice and love, in how Alex pushes himself to accommodate the needs of mother, no matter how ridiculous they are. Recreating Socialist Germany with the help of his neighbors and friends not only keep his mother healthy up to her final days, it opened the eyes of Alex, the one reformed to believing western ideals, to open his sense with what was and has been – the Socialist Unity Party of old Germany.
Goodbye Lenin, apart from the other films tackled in this course, is mainly character driven by historical and actual events in reality. Seeing how European cinema directors tackle such a grand and broad concept as keeping your mother thinking it is still 1989 is an ambitious project to undertake, and the acting and execution of the story is handled to great extent. The characters feel the weight of the situation – making the scenes more emotional. It really is a good film, despite being some of the more coherent and narratively straightforward ones in the lot. It still maintains a form of depth to its story that makes it a charm in its own rights.