Thursday, December 25, 2003

I watched Good bye, Lenin! yesterday, a German comedy about family relationships and the political, sociological and economic changes that took place in East Berlin after the Wall fell down in November 1989. Christiane, a staunch worker for the socialist East German government, suffers a heart attack and goes into a coma shortly before the Wall falls. She wakes up eight months later, and her son, Alexander, is told that his mother is not to suffer any excitement, if not she will most likely suffer another heart attack and die. With this in mind, Alexander and his sister, Ariane, take great pains to redecorate their mother's room in their apartment so that it'll look exactly the way it did before all this happened. Alex goes to great lengths to prevent his mother from discovering the truth, from purchasing old East Berlin newspapers to pass off as being current news, to buying the new Western and imported food and transplanting them into old East Berlin food jars, to getting his wannabe film-director friend, Denis, to put together fake news programmes explaining away what Alex is unable to hide from her (for instance, the proliferation of Coca-Cola in East Berlin, the sudden increase on West Berliners in their apartment building). In the process, we see how Alex's tasks and measures soon become not just a way to protect his mother, but also a wistful longing of how life under the socialists should have been for.

Daniel Bruhl, as Alexander, is convincing in his portrayal of a devoted, determined son, always driven in his quest to ensure that his mother's last days are comfortable. Katharine Sass, as Christiane, puts in a good performance throughout the show as the good socialist worker. It's a good show which does make you think once you realise that Alex has started to become socialist in a way - but the idealistic socialist, much like how his mother was (and also the reason why she was never promoted in the socialist party). An interesting issue is uncovered, but never really delved into. The mother has the right to know the truth, to not be fooled. The son, however, has the right to protect his mother. At which point should the truth be revealed?

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