Monday, 20 April 2015

Film #31: Good Bye Lenin! (15)


Released: 2003 
Directed by: Wolfgang Becker 

Recently, life and work have been conspiring to keep me from watching any German films, but this weekend I managed to fit in an old favourite. If you're reading this blog then there's a good chance you will have already seen Good Bye Lenin!, but it's still worth recommending. 

When Alex (Daniel Brühl) is arrested while taking part in a protest in the former East Germany, his mother has a heart attack and falls into a coma. When she wakes, she has no idea that the wall has fallen and that Germany has been reunited. When the doctors say that any shock could kill her, Alex decides to pretend that nothing has happened. Unfortunately, this proves more difficult than he imagined when all her favourite foods have disappeared from the supermarkets and Coca-Cola banners start hanging from the surrounding buildings. To keep the charade going, he ropes in his sister, family friends and his colleague Denis to film fake TV broadcasts. 

I really struggled to figure out why this was given a 15 certificate. There is practically no swearing and one very brief moment of violence between police and protestors at the start, but I have seen far worse in films with lower ratings. The only reason I can come up with is one short scene of male nudity. 

The first time I saw this film was in a cinema of Germans roaring with laughter, and while it is very funny, it certainly has a bittersweet edge. Alex and his sister have not seen their father since he fled to the west, and the film provides an insight into the personal divisions caused by the geographical divisions within Germany. Good Bye Lenin! has become one of the quintessential German films, and is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in German-language cinema.