Goodbye Lenin! (2003, Wolfgang Becker)
The trailer for “Goodbye, Lenin!” made the movie seem like it would be broad comedy, so I was surprised at how serious it actually was. Director Wolfgang Becker goes for the laughs occasionally, but manages to retain the humanity and social critique.
Alex (Daniel Bruhl) wanted to be a cosmonaut while growing up in communist East Germany. He ended up a TV repairman, living at home with his fervent socialist mother, Christiane (Katrin Sass), college student sister Ariane (Maria Simon) and her baby. Christiane happens to see a protest against the government one night and suffers a heart attack that sends her into an eight-month coma. She’s unconscious while the Berlin Wall comes down, and capitalism invades East Germany. When she wakes, doctors warn Alex and Ariane that any excitement could send her back into critical condition. Alex sets out to create a world for her in which the wall never fell, but of course it becomes harder and harder to do.
In America, this could be the setting for an Adam Sandler movie, but in the hands of a German filmmaker, it instead becomes at once an insightful critique of capitalism, and a poignant family drama. Daniel Bruhl brings to life a boy who is at once falling in love with a new world (and a beautiful nurse, played by Chulpan Khamatova) and clinging to an old one, and Katrin Sass has the kind of beauty found in women who have no fear of growing old–she looks like an older Diane Lane, and is no less gorgeous for the lines in her face. This is the kind of movie that makes you think while making you laugh, and it’s interesting to see the things we take for granted in oh-so-capitalist America (Coca-cola billboards, fast food burger chains, tacky ’80’s clothing) through the eyes of someone who’s never dealt with such things. It brings home the fact that what is really important is family, while questioning the idea of lying to protect someone, clinging to the past, and the importance of material things.
Now Playing at the Mayan Theater – go to www.landmarktheaters.com for showtimes