Sunday, May 1, 2011

Good Bye, Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker)

'Oh well, goodbye then'.

I was quite weary before watching this film as I haven't been that familiar with the history of German division aside from the fall of Berlin Wall and well, Reagan's famous 'tear down this wall' speech. But "Good Bye, Lenin!", with a narrator (that's also the film's protagonist) that seem far too poetic at times but ultimately convincing, delivered the necessary information with a tone of mundane deliberateness to highlight the character's naturalism for audiences to follow the film's political background closely .

It's as if there's a far more important theme to tackle other than socialist intricacies. But of course, there is: An enduring story of a son's love to his mother devoid of any conditionals.

After his socialist mother (Katrin Sass in an impressive performance) has awakened from an 8-month comma due to a heart attack, Alex (played by Daniel Bruhl, whom you may recognize as Frederick Zoller in the later Tarantino film "Inglourious Basterds"), who have learned from the doctor that his mother shouldn't be shocked or hooked into excitement in any way whatsoever as it may result to complications, is eager to keep her home. But complications is never just a health dilemma. The Berlin Wall has fallen. It's now one Germany, and the stocks of Spreewald gherkins has cruised into scarcity. Her mother's reality has turned into a unified land filled with alien capitalism.

He faced the situation with a calm demeanor and absurdist resolute, and helped by his friend and aspirant filmmaker Denis (Florian Lukas, who's like a cross between Robert Carlyle and a younger Ed Harris), decided to re-create GDR in ingenious kinds of ways as to prevent her mother from having the heart-thumping revelation of her life. A well-intended deception heightened by comedy. A 'comedy' that surely roots out from social idealism (the mother) suppressed by empirical determination.

Director Wolfgang Becker directed these sequences with uncommon energy and quirks that the first hour of the film flowed so effortlessly with quick pace, ease and story-telling delight. Yet from those elements mainly conceived from clever concepts and scenarios, "Good Bye, Lenin!" is still focused in its human drama.

It's less a politically-toned film than it is a penetrating study of connection (Alex's family), re-connection (the father sub-plot) and disconnection (from A horrid emotional past and the attachment to the GDR). Of course, from the point of view of a German who have experienced the social atmosphere of East/West Germany, "Good Bye, Lenin!" is mainly affecting due to the countless nostalgic references to olden times and the euphoric destruction of separatist sentiments. But from those way outside looking in (like me), what's very special with this film is its balance of happiness and melancholy by way of how it highlights the fun of liberty and the anguish of mistakes.

"Good Bye, Lenin!" is very eloquent on all sides, capturing the essential 'celebratory' mood of reunified Germany and the irony of the countless ruins and how it tries to accommodate its reverberated surroundings in desperate vain, especially how the wrecked Lenin statue hanging below a helicopter seems to communicate something to Alex's mother (one of the many great scenes in the film) as if asking for forgiveness or asking for her hand and saying, 'my child, my deeply socialist child, come with me'.

From its shifting pace to comic moments and times of tears, "Good Bye, Lenin!" has been strongly consistent with the entirety of its delivery and it has rendered a political reverie-turned reality into a convincing world of varied emotions and where euphemistic acceptance is a possibility. And moreover, departing from the complexities, the film is, simply put, a lasting love letter to all mothers who have loved their children unlike any other.


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