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Berlin: City in the Movies
Posted February 19, 2010 to photo album "Berlin: City in the Movies"
Scott Macaulay clicks through the various characters this city has played.
Slide 11: Good Bye, Lenin - City of the East
The last film on our list is Wolfang Becker’s 2003 film, Good Bye, Lenin!, which, appropriately, takes us if not quite full circle then back to the Cold War scheming of films like Torn Curtain. This time, however, the subterfuge is both comedic and familial. Set just before and just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Good Bye Lenin! details a son’s attempts to maintain the illusion of a Communist East Germany for his stridently pro-Socialist Unity Party mother, who suffered a stroke during those fateful days. Her doctor tells the son that news of Germany’s reunification will surely hasten her demise, so he constructs a series of elaborate fictions to keep all traces of Western consumer culture, capitalism, and democratic politics away from her sickbed. The film is a witty meditation on historical memory, one in which the repression, state-controlled media, and scarcity are recast as comforting cultural mementoes. Indeed, the film was a hit in Germany where, wrote J. Hoberman of the Village Voice, “it seemed to reflect the current mood of ostalgie for the old DDR.” He continued, “Had it been directed by Billy Wilder, Good Bye, Lenin! could have been a sensational farce—the reverse of One, Two, Three, in which Berlin-based Coca-colonizer James Cagney has 24 hours to transform a bellicose East German beatnik into a model capitalist son-in-law…. Good Bye, Lenin! is overlong and a bit tiresome but it's actually about something—not so much ostalgie as the conditions that create it. That Communism itself was a fake facade makes Alex's imaginary motherland the simulation of a simulation. There's a haunting quality to his bittersweet realization that "the DDR I created for her became the one I would have wished for."