Alexander Kerner, the protagonist of "Good Bye, Lenin!", sends himself into such a kinetic frenzy of half-truths, cover-ups and lies that he easily becomes one of recent film's more interesting (if not slightly insane) historical revisionists. The fictional daily life he creates becomes so intense that any propaganda artists watching the film would smack themselves, wondering why they hadnt thought of the same thing. But aside from all its daffy humor, "Good Bye, Lenin!"'s truly winning feature is its heartwarming core that pushes the film far away from schmaltz.
Christiane Kerner (Katrin Sab) is a faithful wife and mother of two children living in Eastern Germany. When her husband suddenly leaves her, she goes into a state of shock, not noticing her kids, the people around her, or anything. She eventually snaps out of it, and without a man in her life, she dedicates her life to the DDR (the East German Communist party). Ten years later, she is still a famous social activist in the area, winning awards and the like. Her son, Alexander (Daniel Brühl), is a loner who mostly wanders around the house, while her daughter Ariane (Maria Simon) is the mother of a little girl.
While looking for something to do, Alex wanders into a protest against the DDR. Of course, the entire mob is arrested, but Alex's mother happened to be walking by the demonstration as it was happening. Seeing her son protesting against her beloved DDR is a little too much for her; she has a heart attack and falls into a coma. During the 8-month span of Christiane's coma, Alex falls for Lara (Chulpan Khamatova), a nurse who he met at the protest, and Ariane gets a boyfriend. Some insignificant events occur as well, such as the Berlin Wall just happening to come crumbling down. when Christiane wakes up, Alex and Ariane are told by her doctor that the slightest bit of shock could give her another heart attack that she might not recover from. Realizing that his mother finding out about the Berlin Wall's collapse could be fatal, he sets off on an excruciatingly detailed venture to recreate the world of post-unification East Germany, complete with DDR food, furnishing, TV, and music.
The wild premise for "Good Bye, Lenin!" sends the stakes in every scene shooting up so that comedic tension is always hanging above everything the characters do. There are moments of dead air with some of Alex's escapades, but for the most part, watching him try and recreate an island of communism amongst the enormous tidal wave of capitalism is a hoot. The atmosphere of such an upside-down political atmosphere comes to a swirling, almost apocalyptic climax that is classic in and of itself and is also probably a tip of the hat to Fellini's "La Dolce Vita".
But as I said before, what really makes "Good Bye, Lenin!" click is how through all of its sociopolitical hyperactivity, it manages to stay grounded with a very real interpersonal undercurrent. Thanks in large part to the versatile performances of its leads, the film creates an understanding of its characters and of the give and take of parental relationships. This makes the incredible, screwball nature of the plot seem not only plausible, but natural.
Of course, as with any film that carries a wide spectrum of historical implications, "Good Bye, Lenin!" is a lot more fun to watch depending on how much you know about the unification of East and West Germany in the late 80s and early 90s. However, this isn't a film that really needs to be pigeonholed to one specific audience. The characters are well written and superbly acted, and the themes of the film are universal enough that this film will make for a good night at the movies for most who venture on seeing it. In any case, I can guarantee that "Good Bye, Lenin!" won't insult your intelligence, and how often can one say that about a comedy film these days?