25 September 2004 | Buddy-51
clever and amusing comedy
Just as Rip Van Winkle slept through the American Revolution and woke up twenty years later to find himself a citizen of a brand new country, so Kathrin Sass, an East German woman, slips into a coma on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall only to wake up eight months later a member of a capitalist society. This is the premise of 'Good Bye Lenin,' a clever and affectionate tale about truth, love and family ties that transcends all national borders and boundaries.
Kathrin, a woman who has dedicated her life to the perpetuation of Communist Party ideology, suffers a major heart attack that plunges her into a comatose state a few months prior to the dissolution of the land she knows as East Germany. While she is 'asleep,' governments tumble, barriers crumble and a whole new tide of Western goods and values comes flooding eastwards to a ravenous, eagerly awaiting public. Then she wakes up. Fearing that the shock of finding such a radically changed world will lead to a second heart attack, her loving son, Alex, devises an elaborate scheme to shield her from the truth and to make her believe that the world she lives in now is the same world she knew eight months before (the basic premise is not that different from the one in 'Jacob the Liar').
'Good Bye Lenin!' is an amusing regional comedy that derives its laughs from two basic sources: the near-slapstick nature of the charade Alex is attempting to perpetrate, and the script's satirical view of a society rushing madly to embrace the joys of unbridled consumerism they have been so long denied. Given its gimmicky premise, 'Good Bye Lenin!' could have emerged as a one-joke comedy were it not for the fine sense of irony and absurdity that writer/director Wolfgang Becker (working with co-writer Bernd Lichtenberg) has brought to the project. In addition, young Daniel Bruhl as Alex and Katrin Sab as Kathrin deliver expert, moving performances that go to the very essence of the mother/child relationship.
I must confess that this film, despite its generally upbeat tone, brings with it a certain rueful sadness that the filmmakers may not exactly have intended. Could it really have been a mere fifteen years ago that the events depicted in this film actually happened - a mere fifteen years ago that the future of the human race seemed so full of joy, hope and promise? Now, in a post 9/11 world - where sectarian hatred and international terrorism rule the day - this image of people coming together to cast off the shackles of bondage and embrace freedom seems already like a quaint memory from the long distant past. In a strange way, the film has become something of a relic in its own time, outstripped by a world that has long since moved on to bigger and more dire concerns. 'Good Bye Lenin' reminds us of just how long ago and far away the Cold War really was.