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Goodbye Lenin! [2002] - £2.97

Contemporary comedies rarely stretch themselves beyond a bickering romantic couple or a bickering couple and a bucket of bodily fluids, which makes the ambition and intelligence of Goodbye, Lenin! not simply entertaining but downright refreshing. The movie starts in East Germany before the fall of communism; our hero, Alex (Daniel Bruhl), describes how his mother (Katrin Sass), a true believer in the communist cause, has a heart attack when she sees him being clubbed by police at a protest. She falls into a coma for eight months--during which the Berlin Wall comes down. When she awakens, her fragile health must avoid any shocks, so Alex creates an illusive reality around his bedridden mother to convince her that communism is still alive. Goodbye, Lenin! delicately balances wry satire with its rich investment in the lives of Alex, his mother, and other characters around them.

On the DVD: Though the DVD extras for Goodbye Lenin! include a detailed featurette on the digital effects used in the movie (particularly intriguing because they had to be completely invisible--many viewers won't realize there were digital effects until they see this featurette) and a convivial cast commentary (in German with English subtitles) with Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sass, and Alexander Beyer, the star of the DVD is director Wolfgang Becker himself. Not only is his commentary rich with historical information and thoughtful notes about the making of the movie, for the deleted scenes (including two lovely scenes that expand on the relationship between Alex and his girlfriend Lara) he and Tom Tykwer (director of Run Lola Run and part of the X Filme collective that produced Goodbye Lenin!) have an insightful conversation about the editing process, storytelling, and the essence of watching a movie. Utterly fascinating, and invaluable to any aspiring filmmaker. --Bret Fetzer

Customer reviews (av rating: 4.5):

Rating: 5:
Charming... : A charming film, the core values of family speak true in every language. One of my personal favourite foreign language films. This DVD is discounted because of the non-optional English subtitles, but for a non-German speaking Brit this was absolutely fine for me, and so the DVD was a steal.

Rating: 1:
Recommended movie, DVD to avoid : The reason why this DVD version of the movie is currently discounted at 3 GBP is probably that it only has german sound with non-optional english subtitles.

So it's a frustrating experience for both those who don't understand german (they have to read subtitles) and those who understand german (they can't make the subtitles disappear).

This technical limitation is OF COURSE not indicated on the Amazon product page and only in 1mm letters on the back cover.

Rating: 5:
Charming : This is a delightful, charming film. A beautifully observed movie of filial love. "Ostalgia" guaranteed

Rating: 5:
Germans never write just comedy... : I think for the majority of viewers this film will be regarded principally as a comedy, though for those who have lived through communism it is a great deal more than that. Like Chaplin's Great Dictator of the 1940s some films truly do exceed the boundaries of history and this is one of them. Wolfgang Becker here achieves two previously considered opposite objectives 1. to satirize and 2.at the same time create nostalgia for the failed system of communism. I don't want to reiterate the plot, although it is very simple: basically it is Rip Van Winkle. This time a loyal East German party member ( absolutely wonderfully played by Katrin Sasz) fall into a coma throughout the period of German reunification. The members of her family in particular her son (Dietrich Buehl), wanting to spare her the potentially life threatening trauma of these events decide to create a kind of pseudo world in which she can still believe in the existence of her former life. The spoofs of communist propaganda are some of the funniest things I have ever seen in a movie. And yet it is the mother's nostalgic love for a vanished way of life ( however flawed ) that triumphs and the final scenes in which history is quite literally reversed and the "decadent" west is seen as flocking to the "idealistic" east for inspiration is something that only cinema (true cinema ) can achieve. I warn you, this film will not only make you laugh. It is a sublime invention, which puts aside all the human suffering that false ideologies can create and which can re-inspire us all through laughter to a better vision of the future. I can't say anything better.

Rating: 4:
"The future lay in our hands. Uncertain, yet promising." : Good Bye Lenin! is a German-made film about the collapse of the Berlin Wall and reunification as seen through the eyes of a young man called Alex. The real focus of the film, however, is Alex's mother Christiane (wonderfully played by Katrin Sass) who falls into a coma a few days prior to the momentous events of 1989. Against all odds, she wakes from her slumber after 8 months, blissfully unaware of the upheaval taking place.

On one level, GBL! is an important historical film, reminding viewers of a time, not so long ago, when the great divide between Communism and Capitalism - in Europe, at least - was a physical reality; literally, a Wall that separated free enterprise and excess in the West from strict moral code and simple living in the East. As a tireless, yet good-humoured campaigner for the socialist cause, Christiane represented the well-intentioned ideals of East Germany, but with her entire raison d'Ítre destroyed, Alex takes it upon himself to keep his bed-ridden mother in the dark about the decline of Communism and succeeds in creating an alternate reality for her, in which the future she worked so hard for appears to be unfolding before her very eyes...

On a second, more subtle level, then, GBL! is a powerful and touching portrayal of a son's complete and utter devotion to his mother and the things she believed in. That Alex may be deluding himself is not suggested until towards the end, when Christiane makes a revelation of her own...

A tad long at 120-odd minutes, this is nevertheless an extremely clever, well thought-out, well put-together film that entertains and engages throughout. I would tend to agree with a previous reviewer's comments that while there are few full-on, laugh-out-loud moments in this film, it is very funny. For this reason alone, it's worth watching - after all, to the majority of English viewers "German comedy" is all but a contradiction in terms.

Recommended.

Matt Pucci

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