Good Bye, Lenin!

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


One of the fascinating aspects of Good Bye, Lenin!, the first comedy to capture the human dimension in the tumultuous dying days of the German Democratic Republic, is its massive appeal among audiences abroad. Playfully and poignantly, it follows Alex, a young man trying to shield his fervently Communist mother from shocking news of German reunification when she wakes from a coma. As Alex lovingly transforms his bedridden mother's world into a pre-Perestroika time capsule, the film honors the human side of socialist ideology but also pokes fun at the GDR, by turning its rhetoric and products into nostalgic icons. Perhaps now, 14 years after the Berlin Wall fell, Europeans, in particular Germans, are ready to recognize the advantages and ironies in both systems—East and West. Good Bye, Lenin! stimulates this process—a kind of "mental reunification"—in its viewers.

At heart, the rare brilliance in Wolfgang Becker's rich film is its multifaceted exploration of the challenges for East Germans (and by extension everyone living behind the Iron Curtain) in assimilating dizzying social and political changes after 1989. Visual metaphors, like a torso of Lenin floating through the air or a red Coca-Cola banner unfurling on a building façade, magnificently embody the startling upheaval. Meanwhile, Alex's dogged resolve to keep reality at bay begins to seem as much a way of protecting himself as his mother.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

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