Even without the telltale subtitles, you can tell that "Goodbye Lenin" is not an American movie. Why is that, you ask? Because it can offer all the elements of good filmmaking: storytelling, character development...of its general complexity without sacrificing values.
Values, you say? Oh yeah--those quaint notions that inherently recognize right versus wrong and/or hold some old traditions near & dear. Again, the inclusion of old-time verities tips one off that TimeWarner is not providing the funding for "Goodbye Lenin." In fact, TimeWarner types would not fit into the ouevre of the film at all.
To cut to the chase, the story follows the antics of a young son's attempts to cover up the 1989 breakup of the GDR to his ailing mother. Residents of East Berlin, the son's mother--an ardent communist--emerges from a coma; doctors warn her children, though, that any shock or upset could bring on a fatal heart attack.
Knowing too well the cultural havoc that rampant post-1989 Westernism has created over the former GDR, the son goes to great comedic lengths to recreate pre-1989 Berlin in their tiny apartment in Alexanderplatz.
Which is yet another way "GL" cannot be mistaken for mass-produced American sap: it can manage to be a comedy, a complex political questions and a brave champion of Olde World values. And all at the same time!
Its refreshing to see the son's devotion to his mother, respect for familial ties and tradition. All Americans should be made to watch "GL:" to see the ugliness of our popular culture firsthand as it makes its brash way into the GDR. Coke banners, pornography, rap music, Britney...
Unlike those American movies that do make the attempt to formulate a message (which are becoming rarer by the day!), this film doesn't hit you over the head to get you to see the deleterious effects of western imperialism and crass consumerism. The movie's producers simply do this through their characters: a daughter who works at the new Burger King; Denis, the eager aspiring movie director who provides much of the comic relief in this film.
Although he may not be crazy about Lenin's theories and living under the communist regime, the son has enough depth of character to acknowledge and appreciate his mother's years of devotion to The Cause. But this is where the predictability ends in "GL>" Now usher in the disturbing and unexplained fact that his father was persecuted by authorities for not joining the Party and hence defected to West Berlin. Is this why his wife was such a devoted worker in The Party?
This could have been fleshed out more, just as the "Wessie-ness" (western Berlin manners and mores) of his sister's boyfriend, Rainer. The film has other shortcomings: the relationship between the son and his mother's nurse is too sappy and predictable ("American-like, you could say).
Some may view his efforts is recreating a pre-1989 life for his mother too farfetched for reality: think of the pickle scenes. The director's use of fast-forwarding for many of the comic scenes are hilarious and accentuate their absurdity.
Actual footage from the crumbling of the Berlin Wall is interspersed thru the film as well as newsrells of political leaders. I found it interesting that no images were shown of former President Reagan (or any other American officials for that matter).
The scene with the disembodied Lenin flying over Alexanderplatz, waving goodbye to the mother, is SUBLIME.
It doesn't get any better than this!