Another week has gone by and I have finally finished my pre Leaving Cert exams which puts me on the home stretch before the real thing in June. Some results have already been returned and I can’t really complain but there is another giant amount of work necessary before the summer.

This week I would like to talk a bit about a gem of a movie that I was fortunate enough to see last Sunday. Good Bye Lenin! is a touching and funny tale of deception, nostalgia and love which was made in Germany and released in 2003. Taking place in east Berlin before and after the fall of the wall, the story centers on a young man (played by Daniel Brühl) whose mother, an active and supportive member of  GDR communist politics, falls into a coma upon seeing her son in an anti-government demonstration. Eight months later she wakes up, unaware that around her everything has changed, the two halves of Germany have been reunified, the communist system has been taken over by the capitalist west. In order to preserve her fragile health, her son takes her home, as if nothing had happened. There follows a series of genuinely funny and poignant episodes as the truth is kept from her.

However, far from a satire on eastern block politics, the message of this film is clearly that there are no winners in this new Germany and it is filled with many aspects of “Ostalgie” demonstrating that access to a TV and other symbols of capitalist ideology isn’t everything in life. At times the film verges on over-sentimentality but remains very funny if tragic throughout. Gradually the fabrication of the bygone country becomes less an act of kindness towards his mother and turns towards self preservation: The GDR that the boy creates for his mother, as well as his lifelong fascination with space travel, become a representation of what he wishes the country could have been. One of the film’s most touching scenes comes towards the very end as we watch with the characters the last of the hilarious news reports created by the boy and his friend. It is laden with irony of course that the mother knows the truth at this stage.

All the actors on show here give absolutely superb performances, the screenplay is superb and the film is accompanied by an excellent score by Yann Tiersen. Listeners may be deterred by the repetition of these sentimental piano patterns but these together with some more quirky passages provide a generous portion of the film’s heart.

This is an excellent film and thoroughly deserves the five stars it so often receives. It works perfectly as a portrayal of post-cold war Germany and a people’s search for identity and is a light counterpoint to more serious films such as “The Lives of Others.” See it if you can!

Your feedback and comments are much appreciated. Until next week!

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