Movie Report: Goodbye Lenin!

by Devika Mittal

Released Year: 2003

Director: Wolfgang Becker
Cast: Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sab

The movie revolved around Christiane(Katrin Sab) who was an ardent supporter of the Communist party in Germany. She was an idealist, even when there existed widespread disillusionment among the masses. So when she saw her son in an anti-government demonstration, she suffered a heart-ache and goes into coma. Meanwhile, the wall of Berlin that had divided Germany into the East Communist Germany and the West Capitalist Germany had fell. The fate of Germany was now to move towards Capitalism with a disastrously rapid pace(the “shock therapy”). It was in this context, that the mother woke up. But the doctor had warned her son, Alex (Daniel) that she is still under danger so she should not get another shocking news. So Alex decided to cover up the on-going transition. He and his sister try to ‘bring back’ the old order in her world. They undo the changes in their lifestyle, dress, decor of the house and their values. Often, she would trip on  reality but fake news headlines always saved the day. Alex also goes in search of his father and manages the final meet of his parents. Christaine then leaves… believing in a lie but which was much more comforting.

The screening was followed by a discussion. Dr. Saroj Jha, who teaches history at Kirori Lal College and Ms. Rashi Mehra were the discussants. We discussed the nature of the film, the issue of nation v/s individual, the kinship ties, youth and ofcourse, socialism v/s capitalism.

Goodbye Lenin is a historical film as it captures the disintegration of USSR bloc and the “shock therapy” which had followed. It captures the political and economic scenarior pre- and post- 1991. But has a subaltern lens. The movie explores the human angle of one of the greatest political event of the recent past. Communism comes with a state ideology of the ‘spirit of communism’. This movie captures that. The movie also helps us understand the pain of the sudden transition. It was like everything had changed overnight. The currency had changed and the old currency had no value at all. Many firms were shut-down. Many were forced to leave their jobs. There was chaos and confusion.

The movie also celebrates the bond between a mother and a son. It celebrates kinship ties which starts loosening in a capitalist regime. The father had abandoned his family and had gone to the ‘capitalist’ west. But the mother stayed on…and held the familial ties strong. Her son had also continued this ‘socialist’ ideal in a capitalist regime.

The fact that the mother decided to stay back in Communist Russian even when her husband goes off to the west shows how State/Nation came ‘first’. She had chosen Nation over individual.

In the discussion, the issue of how the youth are generally more willing and optimistic about change while the ‘experienced’ are reluctant, as also reflected in the movie, was also raised.

Goodbye Lenin also reveals the good and the bad face of both Communism and Capitalism.

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