Film Review - Goodbye Lenin!

For once a film that accurately portrays the moods and attitudes of the East Berlin population during the year 1989-1990. This period saw a total upheaval in life, from the first demonstrations repressed by the East German state on October 7, 1989 till German unification a year later, all the main events are interspersed with the way these events impacted life. For once a film that accurately portrays the moods and attitudes of the East Berlin population during the year 1989-1990. This period saw a total upheaval in life, from the first demonstrations repressed by the East German state on October 7, 1989 till German unification a year later, all the main events are interspersed with the way these events impacted life. The presentation of a montage of images of the chaotic transformation is brilliant.

The fall of the Berlin wall brings the first trip to a sex shop, the change in currency brings everything western and everything in the east is thrown out, with no regard for either quality or utility. The older generation represented by believers and party members, (there were 2.2 million party members in 1989 out of a total population of 17 million) feel powerless, and respond by retreat or by repeating "we worked 40 years.. for this!" a phrase I well remember hearing everywhere, on the lips of the older generation.

Powerlessness in the face of the processes overwhelming their "little heimat" (homeland) was very much an all pervasive feeling by the end of 1989. The energy and enthusiasm of the revolutionary phase (October- November 1989) had been thrown into disarray and confusion, but the opening of the wall made a chasm out of the breach between those who believed in Socialism with democracy, and those who simply wanted to "Test the West". This layer, was represented by one placard reading "If the Deutsche Mark does not come to us, then we will go to the Deutsche Mark" carried on a demonstration in November shortly after the wall was opened.

Yes the wall was "opened", it was not torn down by either the revolutionary or reactionary masses. I’d stake money that it was opened by a secret agreement between the West German leaders and the East German leaders. In any case prior to the opening of the wall, no-one (well very, very, few people) in the east called for the wall to be opened, precisely the opposite. Just before the wall was opened the Government organised mass meetings in the main buildings and squares of Berlin, I recall one person said "we must remove the wall" only a handful clapped and many heckled him, he immediately changed his tune saying, "we can put a fence up instead". It was perfectly obvious to people that this would mean the destruction of the East German economy, East Germans wanted to sort out their own problems themselves.

All the political parties and organisations which mushroomed at the time stated that they supported maintaining two German States and were opposed to reunification. Whilst this policy was wrong, the Marxists idea of revolutionary reunification seemed to be utopian, because the crisis appeared as an Eastern crisis. The natural direction of revolutionary solidarity was to the East (but Berlin made the natural focus to the West). On November 13th on the first Monday demonstration in Leipzig after the wall was opened I clearly remember the marchers (we are talking quarter of a million people) singing the Internationale, followed by mass chants of "Germany one Fatherland" and "Fight yourself Free Czechoslovakia" (it works as a chant in German). Revolution merged with counter-revolution in one breath, from hundreds of thousands of people.

In Goodbye Lenin, the revolution is only presented at the start of the film, everything else flowed from that, changes that transformed everyone’s lives, and now have come to symbolise the end of 'communism'. Goodbye Lenin is rich in visual representation and humour, and will provide the viewer with an accurate historical impression of how the East German people responded in contradictory ways to the changes engulfing their lives.