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Good Bye Lenin! (DVD)
Member Name: Mauri
Good Bye Lenin! (DVD)
Date: 09/09/05, updated on 09/09/05 (637 review reads)
Advantages: Well acted, well made, intelligent comedy drama with good DVD features
Disadvantages: Subtitles for some
The film is set in 1989 East Berlin just months before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the communist state. Alex is opposed to the regime and is arrested for his actions; his mother a die-hard socialist has a heart attack from the shock and falls into a coma. She finally awakens a few months later when the socialist state she supported is no more. Alex and his sister are under doctor's orders not to excite their mother so anxious not to precipitate another attack they decide to trick her into thinking things are as they were. Obviously this becomes increasingly difficult leading to evermore complicated and intricate deceptions and many amusing consequences.
THE CAST, PERFORMANCES AND OPINION
Daniel Brühl .... Alex
Kathrin Sass.... Mother
Chulpan Khamatova .... Lara
Maria Simon .... Ariane Kerner
Florian Lukas .... Denis
Alexander Beyer .... Rainer
Burghart Klaußner .... Alex Vater
Directed by Wolfgang Becker, written by Wolfgang Becker and Bernd Lichtenberg.
This film was of special interest to me since I visited Berlin in the summer of 1989 the time in which the film is set. The one thing I remember of the period is the drastic difference between the east and the West of the city. Taking the obligatory day trip in to communist run East Berlin and seeing the rows of identical drab cars and the shops with empty windows being flanked by an appointed guide at all times and being searched both going in and coming out passing through the infamous Checkpoint Charlie it seemed inconceivable to me that the political system was going to completely break down in a matter of years let alone months . So the premise of the film was completely believable and to bring a more serious note to the review in retrospect the saddest thing I saw on my trip was a memorial (a simple wooden cross) on the western side of the wall in memory of a man that had been killed trying to escape to the West at the beginning of 1989…if he’d waited a few months longer he would’ve been able to freely walk across the border…
The film is ostensibly a comedy drama but the clever plot device of the mother’s coma and the subsequent deceptions allows the director to explore and contrast the changing attitudes and social practicalities that followed the changes that took place all so quickly in Berlin after the fall of communism. This film essentially plays with a single clever and interesting idea, and even though there is little more to the plot than this initial premise it cleverly built upon much in the same way as occurs in a classic farce so that interest is sustained throughout.
Undeniably this is a funny film but there are many different elements to the story that make it also good drama and that produces an emotional impact in the audience. There is also as a certain amount of political message hidden away in the plot. The way Alex in his reconstruction of communist Berlin tries to produce a brand of socialism that he as a sceptic can accept goes some way to making the point that the fall of the Berlin wall was not a victory of capitalism over socialism but a more complicated shift in the political landscape where socialist principles could a still have a part to play. Of course the film being made in 2002 has the luxury of hindsight and can produce a more measured response to the fall of communism and the eventual re-unification of Germany that was possible in the excitement of the time.
The performances by the main actors in the cast are great, of special note is Daniel Brühl who is a revelation and should be ensured of a good career in films. Kathrin Sass is also convincing as the slightly confused mother who gradually become more aware of her situation and the sometimes strained interaction between her an Alex is the pivotal dramatic element of the film.
Another aspect of the film to mention is that it is a period piece having been made in 2002 but set in the late 80’s even for a such a recent period in history (even more so maybe since most viewers will remember the period well) care has to be take with the visual accuracy of the movie. In this ‘Good bye Lenin!’ was totally convincing. The director cleverly used actual newscast of the period both to add credibility to the setting and to emphasise the clear differences between the actual state of the society in which the characters live and the idealised version that Alex is slowly constructing for his mother.
In short ‘Good bye Lenin!’ is an accessible funny intelligent comedy with a dash of romance well acted and well made, but it also manages to at times transcend this limited brief to delivers some subtle and yet powerful messages about the nature of control in society and the way we view the too easy distinctions made between left and right in the political world. I suppose in a way the fall of the Berlin wall and communism in eastern Europe was a prelude to western society in general to re-evaluate these notions of political spectrum and forced liberals to think about a more progressive answer to capitalism once socialism in the view of many had been seen to ‘fail’. In a way Alex’s fictitious view of society presented to his mother is an attempt to do this and to find common ground between them.
But don’t worry the film can be enjoyed without an in depth political analysis!
Judging from the list of special features it would seem that there isn’t much to see but unlike the many bloated ‘special DVD editions’ these days the special features on this DVD are more about quality than quantity.
The technical side of the DVD is fine; we have good picture and sound quality- Widescreen1.85.1 Anamorphic transfer with Dolby 5.1 sound or Dolby 2.0 sound both with the German soundtrack. The main subtitles are English and are for the most part unobtrusive and legible and to my mind at least preferable to any dubbing of the actor’s voices.
The interactive menu and scene selection are clearly presented and easy to navigate with the sectorisation of the DVD adequate enough for you to reasonably skip through bite sized sections of the film.
The extras include a promotional trailer, which might not be of much use to a majority of viewers but I always find interesting to see how the film previewed actually compares with the actual product, the making and editing of the trailer is a minor art form in itself.
The real nugget in the DVD package is the cast and director commentary option (again with English subtitles), which is both laid back and informative. We hear the main cast members Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sass, and Alexander Beyer speaking along with director Wolfgang Becker about the making of the film specific scenes and some technical aspects of the editing. This is all done in a very accessible way and with a tone that will not put off casual film fans rather than simply entertain the film buffs.
A few deleted scenes are included that for once are helpful to our understanding of the film and add to the interest in the filmmaker’s methods. In this director of another recent German film 'Run Lola Run', Tom Tykwer discuss technical aspects of filmmaking and producing, which is both insightful and entertaining.
The final inclusion is a featurette illustrating the visual and special effect used in the film which may have passed many viewers by, however once explained it does provide a further insight in to the filmmaking process.
Overall the DVD package although not crammed with features complements the film well and is worth having.
*Certificate 15-Duration 1 hour and 56 minutes
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© Mauri 2005
Summary: A well made comedy with more serious undertones if you wish to see them