Goodbye Lenin!

Just watched a German film made in 2003 about the reunification of East and West Germany. Described on the DVD box as a “Romantic Comedy” it was anything but. My initial reaction was twisted by this description and I kept waiting for it to transform into something light and humourous. This never happened and I ended up having to go away and think about it very differently. On the surface it is about a brother and sister growing up in East Germany with their single parent mom. Dad has apparently abandoned the family to run away to the West with his girl-friend and the mother sublimates her unhappiness in devotion to The Party and the DDR. Just before the Wall coming down and the rapid collapse of the East, the mother suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma for eight months while the political transformation occurs. When she wakes up she is still very weak the kids, particularly her son take her home and in order not to cause her an emotional shock that might bring on a second and fatal heart attack, they hide the change from her. It becomes and elaborate hoax that escalates to the point of absurdity in some ways but they manage never to let her find out that her precious DDR is no more. It is all done out of love and concern for her. While this is a source of humour it is in no way a comedy and is tragic in many ways as the lies they weave do not compare to the lie she has lived and reveals at the end of the film. It can be taken on a personal level but the fiction they create is not unlike the fiction that was perpetrated on the East Germans by their government or that created in North Korea today. The political message is mirrored in the interpersonal fictions that existed between the characters as well. In the end the movie was really very good and worthy of the many awards and nominations it accrued at the time.

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