Film: Good Bye, Lenin!

"The GDR survives — on 79 square meters!"

Shortly before the fall of the Berlin wall, the young East German Alexander Kerner's dedicated Communist mother sees her son in an anti-government demonstration and falls into a coma. When she awakens eight months later, the doctors tell Alexander that his mother cannot abide a new shock. Alexander therefore orchestrates an elaborate ruse, complete with fake television programs, to keep his bed-ridden mother from finding out that the GDR is gone.

German bittersweet comedy from 2003, with a lot of subtle humor, playing on the feeling of shell-shock many East Germans felt upon being catapulted into the Capitalist world and the almost overnight disappearance of their country. Many of the visual clues might be easy to miss for people not familiar with the common cliches about the GDR (of which many were in fact Truth in Television).

This film provides examples of:

  • Age Cut: Alex is a student launching a model rocket in school. The camera pans up as the rocket launches and pans down to find Alex 10 years older.
  • The Alleged Car: The family's acquisition of a Trabant after "just" 3 years' wait- a sky-blue wagon, no less- is a plot point.
  • Alternate History: An elaborate alternate history where East Germany ends up dominant over West Germany is created to hide the truth.
  • Commie Land: Or rather, the transition from this.
  • Dacha: The family have one, and are shown holidaying there in old home movie footage- later, they take the mother (Christiane) there in the Trabant, where she tells the real story about the father's defection to the West, and suffers a relapse due to the trauma of remembering the event.
  • The Driver: The cab driver who may or may not have been Sigmund Jähn.
  • End of an Age: As indicated by the title, the end of communism in Europe.
  • Excited Show Title!
  • Fawlty Towers Plot: "Don't mention the Wall!"
  • Finger Twitching Revival: Mom awakes from her coma.
  • Foreign Language Title: Instead of Auf Wiedersehen, Lenin!.
    • This gets a gag in one scene, which shows a (real) headline from the fall of the Wall saying, Mach's gut, Deutschland! ("Goodbye, Germany!")
  • The Future Is Shocking: A variation occurs (no actual time travel, but East Germany was in a sort of stasis) — after the Berlin Wall falls, the protagonist goes to see West Germany and instantly encounters a TV with porn on.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up
  • German Humor: Lots of it in the narration, not all picked up by the subtitles.
  • Hospital Hottie: Lara, the nurse with whom Alex begins a relationship
  • In the Original Klingon: One of the fake newscasts claims that proof has been discovered to demonstrate that Coca-Cola was invented in East Germany.
  • It's All Junk: Played with. The old, East German furniture that they threw out turns out to be the hiding place of their life savings. Later, the money is worthless because the family missed the cut-off to exchange them for West German Marks.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Sort of (but not exactly in the way Alexander intends).
  • Locked Out of the Loop: The entire plot is based on locking Alex' mother out of the loop. Later, it's Alex that has to be locked out of the loop, and slightly before that we discover that Alex and his sister were locked out of the loop for over a decade by their mother.
    • Then there also is the over-arching theme of the GDR's entire population having been locked out of the loop, and now have understandable trouble adjusting to it.
  • Maintain The Lie
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Rainer.
  • Match Cut: Discussed by Alex's aspiring filmmaker friend.
  • Outdated Outfit: Played with. To keep the ruse going, it is required for any guests to take off their Capitalist Germany clothes and replace them with Communist Germany Outdated Outfits.
  • Popcultural Osmosis Failure - Denis shows Alex the wedding video he has edited in the style of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Alex does not get the reference - having never seen the original film.
  • Present Day Past: Some of the western brand products are in contemporary (with respect to the making of the film) rather than circa-1990 packaging.
  • Product Placement: Essential to the story; particularly well-handled when the big red banner being lowered on the building across Karl-Marx-Allee from mom's bedroom window turns out to be a Coca-Cola ad.
    • Word of God is that Ariane works at Burger King because they were much easier to work with in terms of filming and use of trade dress than McDonald's.
  • Shout-Out: A subtle but meaningful anachronism: Alex's partner-in-fake-newscasts Denis Domaschke is seen several times wearing a T-shirt from The Matrix, another movie about an artificial re-creation of a world that no longer exists.
    • It's only anachronistic in the final cut of the movie: a deleted scene expains that Denis has an idea for a film that is essentially exactly the same as The Matrix, which is why he's wearing that shirt.
  • Shown Their Work: The filmmakers did one hell of a job in getting the props correct for the fake-out East Germany.
  • Title Drop: Of the rare visual kind in the mentioned statue scene.
  • Unbroken Vigil: Alex is seen falling asleep while watching over his comatose mother in hospital.
  • Undercrank: Setting up Mom's sickroom.
  • The Unreveal: Just who is that cabbie? note 
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: And how it affected some people more than others- TV repairman Alex fairly quickly finds a better job as a satellite dish installer while his sister, finding her pursuit of a degree in Marxist-Leninist economics suddenly obsolete, winds up working at Burger King and several neighbors in their 50s are unemployed with no prospects. Even East German cosmonaut Sigmund Jähn seems to have ended up as a cab driver after the fall of communism.

Alternative Title(s):

Goodbye Lenin