Film & DVD Review: Goodbye Lenin!

Certificate UK:15
Reviewed by David Kerr

Director: Wolfgang Becker. Starring: Daniel Brühl Katrin Sass and Chulpan Khamatova. German language with English subtitles. Run time: 116mins

This delightful and thoughtful comedy gives the lie to the common British stereotype that the Germans have no sense of humour. I saw this film in a Belfast cinema as part of the annual young people’s Cinemagic festival. The audience was packed with six-formers studying German who laughed at the humour a few seconds before me. I had to wait for the subtitles!

Alex – a young television repair man – (Daniel Brühl) takes part in a pro-democracy protest in East Berlin shortly after the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the communist German Democratic Republic (the DDR) in 1989. His mother, Christiane, (Katrin Sass) is a staunch communist. She runs camps for the Freie Deutsche Jugend – a state-run socialist youth group and writes letters to officials on behalf of her neighbours. She is so shocked to see Alex arrested and bundled into the back of a police truck that she collapses with a heart attack and goes into a deep coma.

She missed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the beginning of re-unification of the two German states and the triumph of capitalism. During the eight months of her coma Alex has fallen for her Russian nurse Lara (Chulpan Khamatova) and his sister is now working for Burger King!

When she finally wakes, doctors warn Alex that any shocks could kill her, so he sets about hiding all traces of reunification. There are some big laughs as Alex recruits a wider circle of family and friends and even Germany’s first cosmonaut to bolster the lie as things snowball out of control. At first they show videos of old news broadcasts but as Christiane begins to leave her bed, they start to produce their own ‘socialist’ explanations of the things she sees, courtesy of a pal of Alex’s who always wanted to be a film-maker. It’s marvellous stuff!

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