Thursday, 20 September 2012

Goodbye Lenin

By looking into Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin you can see by the protagonist Alex Kerner he creates a theme of nostalgia and deception in order to protect his fragile mother and to help dialog his own personal parallel world creation. With the most iconic moment in history with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Goodbye Lenin main focus of the story is based on; a coming of age story, a story of one worlds collapse to joining another and son protecting mother.  What really made me appreciate Goodbye Lenin is how the political and cultural crises are skillfully constructed by Wolfgang Becker with the impact of change through; landscape, social, political and cultural. How both historical and fiction collide with political and cultural crises. With Alex’s miniature GDR slowly becoming much more than a room full of old East Germany furniture but becomes something much more. Alex creates a different route of history through what he would have wanted with a somewhat more respectful and alternate choices in history. With this re-writing of history you can see how that in Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin the political and cultural crises are depicted through Alex’s theme of nostalgia, deception and the creation of Alex’s parallel universe.

Through the reunification of East and West Germany Wolfgang created this theme of coming to terms with Alex Kerner old Socialist State coming to an end. At the very start Wolfgang shows how political influence shapes the very idea one’s lifestyle when series of flash backs of Alex’s father running off with “His new enemy of the state girlfriend” and his mother becomes totally devoted to the Socialist State “married the Socialist Fatherland”. Wolfgang shows the importance of a strong Socialist regime holding Alex Kerner’s family together with his mother being a passionate crusader for a social justice writing letters for her neighbours “A passionate crusader for the concern of the common people”. Through a series of home archive footage you see Alex Kerner grow up in a typical communist propaganda way with; Socialist cadet uniforms, singing East Germany’s national anthem and his mother being the conductor of the choir. Even during the era of the Space Race between the United States and Soviet Union, a simpler way of seeing the Cold War is looking at the struggle between both ideology of Communism and Capitalism. Wolfgang used the Space Race to set the first scene of Alex Kerner proud East Germany heritage by showing Alex and his sister Ariane watching a news reel of the East German Sigmund Jahn being the first German going to outer space. Wolfgang did this for two reason; one being that it shows the height of the Soviet Union being the first to go outer space beating the Capitalist nation the United States and second showing the political shift will soon change when Alex Kerner grows up.

With Alex mother falling into a coma for 8 months during her time in a deep sleep her world of a Socialist East Germany falls apart and the victory of the Capitalist West Germany reunifying West and East. With the Socialist ideology falling so does the Socialist lifestyle that Alex and Ariane once grew up in and everything they've been taught is obsolete and now must become like the West. With Alex sitting back and watching his mother’s world collapse his sister Ariane embraces the Western culture; getting a job at Burger King and changing the old East un-luxurious furniture to a more modern Western. Through Alex and Ariane Wolfgang shows the culture clash between the brother and sister with old Socialist values to new capitalist ways. Wolfgang shows that as East becomes more capitalist and Socialist products like Alex mother’s favorite pickles “Spreewald pickles” are harder to find "Why would anyone want Spreewald pickles now communism is over?”

The slowly falling power of the Soviet Union and the decline in the economy greatly affected its Soviet zone East Germany. With this falling power it helped East and West Germany to reunify but at a slow rate. As East and West slowly become one many of the Eastern Soviet Communist culture slowly went away and was replaced with Western culture. The Berlin Wall not only kept people from crossing it also kept both cultures separate with East and West unable to see one another “The Iron Curtin”. At times you see clashes of both cultures in Goodbye Lenin such as the scene of the changing of the East German guards and Coca Cola trucks drive by “Mother slept though the relentless triumph of Capitalism”. In this scene it shows an invasion of somewhat of western culture taking over and parading in the streets just like how Nazi invasion of Paris and parading in their streets. Alex’s sister Ariane is a key character of the young generation of that time that becoming increasingly more westernized. Ariane leaves her studies and gets a job at an American fast food chain Burger King; her outfits become more western along with her music taste and change the furniture in their apartment “She missed the increasing Westernization of our 79 square meter apartment”. The most drastic western change to Alex was when he went to his local store and now “Transformed into a colorful consumer paradise” Now Alex has to settle with this new western food rather than his old East food he and his family once grew up with “We’ve got the German mark now and there you come asking for Mocca Fix and Flinchen.”

Wolfgang now sets in for the main focus in the film by making Alex create his own parallel universe in order to protect his mother. In doing this Alex now re-writes history with the Berlin Wall still staying up and East Germany economy doing just fine. At first Alex recreates his mother’s GDR in their apartment but as times goes on you slowly see that Alex creates his own humane GDR. Wolfgang wanted to show us a different view in history by rewriting history with the million dollar question “What if the Berlin Wall never fell?” With Alex shielding his mother from the truth by; redecorating the apartment back to its old days, tracking down old containers, having children sing Socialist patriotic songs and even setting up a mock newscast. Even when Alex’s mother notices a gigantic Coca Cola sign on a nearby building Alex invents the idea through his mock news channel that Coca Cola was invented by East Germany with a political triumph. Through Alex’s lies and deception Wolfgang wanted to rewrite history and show the audience this new direction in East German history “Maybe the GDR I created for my mother, was the one I would have liked to have”. What was once a miniature GDR Alex now created a parallel universe and rewriting history replacing his mother GDR to his own. This can be seen when Alex and his friend Denis who fashioned a broadcast of the rise of neo Nazi parties in the West and settlers in the West take refuge in the East. Alex uses his boyhood hero Sigmund Jahn become the next leader of East Germany. Wolfgang even changes the course of history once again by creating an alternate ending of history by staging a final broadcast with East Germany opening the borders of the GDR “Socialism means reaching out to others and living with other. Not just to dream about a better world, but to make the world a better place. I have therefore decided to open the GDR borders.” This alternate ending of the GDR; opening its borders, having the West come to the East choosing an alternative from the “Dog eat dog society” of the capitalist west. Alex created in his parallel universe a more respectful end and somewhat a victory over capitalism. By creating this illusion that everyone from the west wanted to the join east “Not everyone wants to join in with career addiction and aggressive marketing”.

What Wolfgang shows in Goodbye Lenin is he doesn’t discriminate East and West but empathizes in the dilemma of Alex’s situation. In an uncertain future for a coming of age Alex is in a time when the entire world is watching Germany becomes one. Seeing everyone on the streets of Berlin parade and cheer Alex is stuck right in the middle. Wolfgang doesn’t show the success of the West through political success but through a cultural invasion. This cultural invasion of; old Eastern products coming off the shelves, Coca Cola banners and trucks and even clothing style working its way through East Germany. Wolfgang created an advertisement product war showing the Socialist East of how much there left behind through cultural establishment. Wolfgang noted this when Alex went to the West for the first time discovering the freedom of Western culture “Of course she also missed my first cultural discoveries in a new country”.


  1. thankyou just used this to revise for my german history degree very helpful xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  2. Glad it was helpful :-) thank you for the comment and be sure to share with friends. Would be awesome to know what grade you get?

  3. Thank you this has been so helpful for my expose on 'vor und nach der Wende' xxx

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  4. thank you so much. this really helped me. I have a paper on the movie this morning and this article really put things into perspective. thank you

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  6. Very helpful! Thank you

  7. this has helped me a lot. i'm writing an essay at the last moment and this is the movie i've picked. i'm grateful af

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