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Goodbye Lenin

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Introduction

German R5A Goodbye Lenin! Set during the era of German reunification (1989-1990), Goodbye Lenin! follows the story of a young man, Alex Kerner, who must protect his mother's fragile health from the shock that East Germany has collapsed. The fall of the Berlin Wall was, without a doubt, an iconic moment in history. Months after the fall, the exuberance had faded, but the pain of reunification was still felt. This difficulty of coming to terms with a new reality is portrayed in Goodbye Lenin! through the themes of deception and nostalgia. The opening sequence, a flashback of Alex's childhood, details his mother's emotion instability. His father runs off with, as Alex puts it, "his new enemy-of-the-state girlfriend." Alex's mother, Christiane, crumbles into a state of depression but soon emerges as a newly-committed warrior of the socialist state. Alex notes that she has "married the Socialist Fatherland." A passionate crusader for social justice, Christiane worries about the workers of Mozambique and serves her neighbors as a writer of world-class letters of complaint to the state. One night, she witnesses Alex tangled up in a riot, suffers a heart attack, and falls into a coma, awaking when reunification is imminent. Alex states, "Mother slept though the relentless triumph of capitalism...the biggest eight months in modern German history...everything she believed in vanished in just a few months...." ...read more.

Middle

Those around him begin to think he has gone too far, yet Alex continues to strive to make his mother happy, while trying to adjust to the new real world. He passionately recreates Socialism in one little room - the very thing that was Alex's childhood. The director cleverly recreates this in a montage of home movies and East German documentary footage in the beginning of the film - this was a time when he was genuinely happy, cavorting with his family, and proud to witness the first East German cosmonaut in space. Old Spreewald pickles and Trabants were a part of his past, but now, life is a consumer's paradise and West Germans are behaving like an occupation army. In trying to hold onto the past, both for his mother and for himself, Alex is nostalgic about their earlier Socialist times. This is also evident when Alex visits his father's home. He sees his father's children watching The Sandman, an Eastern animated show. He asks the children if he could join them and sits happily, reminiscing in his childlike ideals while watching the sandman taking off to the moon in a spaceship. It is interesting to consider whether Alex's ability to conceal the truth is tied to his experience living under a government that perpetuated a distorted version of reality. ...read more.

Conclusion

In addition, the film's ending evokes a sense of nostalgia. Following the ceremony to scatter Christiane's ashes in the skies over Berlin, the film cuts to a historic clip of Sigmund Jahn broadcasting from space, illustrating past GDR successes. The same somber piano score is played, returning to the sense of loss (when Alex is told his father left the East for a woman in the West) and nostalgia with which the film commenced. There is a cut to tracking shots of city streets that remind the audience that this Eastern landscape is disappearing. In the final moments of the film, the same opening home movie footage is presented, but this time showing a middle-aged Christiane gazing proudly into the camera as she stands surrounded by laughing children at a Young Pioneers event. In order to reconcile reality and Christiane's political persuasion, Alex recreates the simple life of the defunct GDR for his mother. He himself begins to enjoy the simplicity of her small one room world. The daily routine gives him a sense of purpose and feeds his nostalgia for East Germany. However, just as Alex is deluding his mother, she has been deluding the children all her life about their father and, in the end, is the one deluding Alex that she is still in the dark about his deception. It is Alex who finally deceives himself by creating the idealized Socialist society of his imagination, one of acceptance and compassion, in his final news bulletin. ...read more.

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