Review: Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)

This week's international film sees Grace Dean discuss the 2003 German comedy Good Bye, Lenin!

Grace Dean
12th March 2018
Image: YouTube
Unfortunately we native English speakers are undeniably arrogant about our language. Thanks to our long history of imperialism, English is the international business language, and this effect has similarly spread to the global film industry, in which many of the most successful blockbusters are in English.

Talented filmmakers migrate to America, not just because of Hollywood’s allure, but also because their chances of success are much higher when the film they’re producing is in the English language. This linguistic arrogance has additionally impacted on the fate of international films in the UK; if we have to read subtitles, chances are we’ll be put off. After all, with a great abundance of English-language films, why bother read off the screen when we don’t have to?

Unfortunately this attitude has led to British viewers missing out on many marvellous international films. Our viewing of foreign-language masterpieces has been greatly limited, and this sadly includes the gem Good Bye, Lenin!.

Despite its deceptive English-language title, the film is thoroughly German.The film addresses the complex theme of life in Eastern Germany both before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. How Good Bye, Lenin! differentiates itself from other similar films is through its unusual perspective on this controversial and highly-debated period of history.

Protagonist Alex, dissatisfied with life in East Berlin, takes demonstrates against the communist regime. Shocked by witnessing his subsequent arrest, his ardent Socialist mother Christiane has a heart attack and then falls into a coma. After some months Christiane awakens in a vulnerable physical state and must avoid any excitement. To prevent any heartbreak over the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the downfall of her beloved Socialist Unity Party of Germany, Alex painstakingly recreates the German Democratic Republic in his mother’s flat.

The film skilfully juxtaposes life in Eastern Germany before and after reunification with the West. Becker skilfully handles a sensitive topic while lightening it with subtle touches of humour, and central themes include family, love and the morality of lying. Unusually the film displays nostalgia for the East; a yearning for a world without capitalism. Good Bye, Lenin! boasts numerous cinematic accolades, including a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the Best Film Award at the European Film Awards, and its German-wide and international success can be easily understood.

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AUTHOR: Grace Dean
Editor-in-Chief of the Courier 2019/20, News Editor 2018/19, writer since 2016 and German & Business graduate. I've written for all of our sections, but particularly enjoy writing breaking news and data-based investigative pieces. Best known in the office for making tea and blasting out James Blunt. Twitter: @graceldean

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