Dusting Off... Good Bye Lenin!
What’s it all about?
This 2003 film from German director Wolfgang Becker is set in East Germany in 1989 and tells the story of Alex, played by a young Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Basterds, The Bourne Ultimatum). His mother Christine (Katrin Saß) is a dyed-in-the-wool communist and party member with a strong distaste for what she views as the vices and decadence of the West.
Alex, however, is less convinced: he has come to view the communist DDR regime as bloated and corrupt. He doesn’t tell his mother this however, fearing she would never speak to him again. One evening, Alex joins a protest march against the regime to support freedom of the press. The police react violently and before long Alex is swept up in the riots but, unbeknownst to him, his mother has ventured into the city to witness all the fuss for herself and spots him just as he is being arrested. The shock causes her to suffer a heart attack, she collapses and is taken to hospital, where she remains in a coma for several months.
In the meantime, history takes its course and in November the Berlin Wall comes down. Over the next few months after Germany is unified once more, gradually the remnants of the East German republic are swept away, people cross the border in both directions an Western products begin to filter their way into the East side of Berlin.
Then Christine wakes up.
Alex is told by the doctors at the hospital that he must protect her from any kind of shock or upset, as this could cause a second heart attack which, they tell him, she will not survive. Alex realises that if she finds out her beloved DDR no longer exists, the shock could kill her.
The rest of the film details Alex’s attempts to keep the truth from her. She is taken back home (remaining bedridden for the time being) where Alex has painstakingly restored their apartment to exactly the way it was before the coma. The rest, however, is not so easy. When Christine begins asking for things like ‘Spreewald pickles’ and ‘Mocha Gold’ coffee, Alex finds that he can no longer buy this produce from the new, Westernised stores and resorts to emptying bins for old packaging, carefully transferring the new western products into the old East German packaging.
Things get even worse when she asks for a television in her room so she can watch the news. Alex recruits his friend Denis (Florian Lukas), an amateur filmmaker, to create fake news broadcasts to explain the strange goings on outside their building, hooking up the TV to a VCR in the next room. Can he keep up the charade?
German cinema enjoyed a bit of a revival in the early 2000s with films like Run Lola Run and The Edukators, and this charming film is one of the best examples. The concept was apparently based on the last years of Lenin’s life, when Joseph Stalin reportedly commissioned one-off print editions of newspapers for him to read on his sickbed, censored of all anti-communist comment and material he felt might cause him to become upset or shocked.
Who will enjoy it?
As long as you’re not put off by foreign-language / subtitled films, we think this is a film that just about everyone can enjoy, but it will particularly appeal to those who enjoy World Cinema or well-crafted indie flicks.