The Juice Bar

My muses, thoughts, ideas, and whatever

Monday, April 05, 2004

I saw an interesting film yesterday, called “Good-bye Lenin”. It’s a German film. It concerns a family living in East Berlin just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. After the father left ten years before, a dedicated mother raises a son and a daughter, while becoming a dedicated volunteer for causes relating to the Communist Party. However, she suffers a heart attack, and is in a coma for several months, during which time the Berlin Wall falls and Germany is reunited. When she awakens from her coma, her doctor sternly warns her son, by now a young man, that she must not be exposed to any excitement or else her heart may fail again. Realizing the unification of Germany would be such a shock, the son decorates the mother’s bedroom exactly the way it was during the socialist East German regime, while all around, the flood of capitalism has transformed her East Berlin neighborhood.

The film brings out much humor in the clever ways her son keeps up the façade. Seeing her favorite communist brand of pickles are no longer carried in the grocery store, he drags old pickle jars out of dumpsters and puts the labels on jars of store-brought Western-style pickles. For her birthday, the son bribes neighbor kids to wear their old communist scout uniforms and persuades old friends to go to his mother’s bedroom and sing Communist rally songs. His friend, an aspiring video producer, creates fake newscasts based on old East German news footage. The schemes are quite clever, and surprisingly believable. The daughter, who has had a baby and started working at the capitalist bastion of Burger King, plays along at first, but starts to get irritated at the charade as time goes on. These characters are very nicely drawn, and their relationships are portrayed well. The son’s scheme, a dubious idea that it was, is motivated by a genuine love and concern for his mother’s well-being. I thought the esclating series of schemes used to keep his mother in her socialist fantasy world were funy and clever.

I think the film also cleverly deals with how we approach the idea of control. Do we want to stay in situations we’re comfortable with, while change is all around us? Do we fool ourselves into thinking a mediocre situation we may be comfortable with, is really better than it is? Can we choose to live in a false reality because we’re afraid to step out into the unknown? Can we really build a personal utopia? Interesting questions.

All in all, a funny, touching film.