Goodbye Lenin!

February 13th, 2003


Goodbye Lenin!

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Still of Daniel Brühl in Goodbye Lenin!Still of Daniel Brühl and Chulpan Khamatova in Goodbye Lenin!Daniel Brühl at event of Goodbye Lenin!Still of Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß and Maria Simon in Goodbye Lenin!Still of Katrin Saß in Goodbye Lenin!Still of Daniel Brühl in Goodbye Lenin!

In 1990, to protect his fragile mother from a fatal shock after a long coma, a young man must keep her from learning that her beloved nation of East Germany as she knew it has disappeared.

Release Year: 2003

Rating: 7.8/10 (52,325 voted)

Critic's Score: 68/100

Director: Wolfgang Becker

Stars: Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova

East Germany, the year 1989: A young man protests against the regime. His mother watches the police arresting him and suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma. Some months later, the GDR does not exist anymore and the mother awakes. Since she has to avoid every excitement, the son tries to set up the GDR again for her in their flat. But the world has changed a lot.

Writers: Bernd Lichtenberg, Wolfgang Becker

Daniel Brühl - Alexander 'Alex' Kerner
Katrin Saß - Christiane Kerner (as Kathrin Sass)
Chulpan Khamatova - Lara
Maria Simon - Ariane Kerner
Florian Lukas - Denis
Alexander Beyer - Rainer
Burghart Klaußner - Robert Kerner (as Burghart Klaussner)
Michael Gwisdek - Klapprath
Christine Schorn - Frau Schäfer
Jürgen Holtz - Herr Ganske
Jochen Stern - Herr Mehlert
Stefan Walz - Sigmund Jähn
Eberhard Kirchberg - Dr. Wagner
Hans-Uwe Bauer - Dr. Mewes
Nico Ledermueller - Alex - 11 Jahre (as Nico Ledermüller)

Taglines: Die DDR lebt weiter -- auf 79 qm!


Official Website: German Cinema Archive | Océan Films [France] |

Release Date: 13 February 2003

Filming Locations: Alexanderplatz, Mitte, Berlin, Germany

Box Office Details

Budget: €4,800,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: €96,105 (Italy) (11 May 2003) (42 Screens)

Gross: $55,694,557 (Worldwide) (6 November 2003) (except USA)

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | Argentina:

Did You Know?

In the original script, Denis was an overweight Turkish-German called "Deniz".

Anachronisms: Alex puts the contents of a pack of Jacobs coffee into GDR packaging, but the logo on the Western coffee package is the one that was launched in the late '90s.

Ariane Kerner: You were in a coma. Eight months ago.
Christiane Kerner: Eight months? What happened?
Ariane Kerner: Yeah, it was...
Alexander Kerner: It was in October, in the supermarket. There was this enormous queue and it was really hot and you just passed out.
Christiane Kerner: In October?
Alexander Kerner: It was a really hot October. At the time.

User Review

The charming social construction of history

Rating: 10/10

I found this movie to be a charming film and very engaging on both a personal and a social level. The story is drawn from the lives of an East Berlin family struggling to cope with the changing world as their way of life is challenged. The father, having reportedly left the family for the West years before, is not present and the mother replaces her spousal needs with the love of her country and its way of life.

The premise of the film centers on the frail mother, who falls into a coma mere weeks before the fall of the Berlin wall. Eight months later, she regains consciousness, and her children are told not to excite her, lest she have another episode.

Bound by their love of their mother, the son and daughter seek to shield her from the changes in her culture. In their apartment, they recreate the conditions of the world she remembers, right down to the labels on the food they serve her. As the mother comes into contact with the inevitable disparities between her new world and the one she remembers, the son compounds the deception, eventually creating false newscasts to explain the phenomena she witnesses in a manner more consistent with her core assumptions of life.

The film is touching, tender, funny and dramatic. However, the elements that really drew me in were the historical construction and the plot device of deception.

The historical construction was the way in which the son, through his efforts to explain the increasingly Westernized elements of German society his mother observes, recreates East Germany as the country he could have faith in. As he recreates history to incorporate current events, he softens the harshness of the party rhetoric, reforming the socialistic ideal closer to the compassion for the masses and the acceptance of the 'enemy' capitalists. The film makes ample use of actual news footage in his narrative, footage that adds sharp contrast to Alex's version.

This contrast is a striking reminder about how much of our social conscience is constructed through the lenses we choose to observe reality and recall history. Alex had quickly come to give up his socialist devotion (though the film does make it clear form the beginning that the adult Alex was already disenchanted with it). But as Alex fabricates news reports and artifacts for the illusion he's providing his mother, he actually appears to be inventing a system of socialism that he can feel proud of. It's almost as if in trying to console his mother, he connects to her by reinterpreting her world into something he can interface with, building common ground.

How much of our own social history is constructed in this manner? We champion our own system of free market democracy as the 'city on the hill' for other nations. We raise up the virtues of our freedom and individuality (and there are indisputably many virtues), while ignoring some of the more sorted historical results it has yielded. We choose which portions of our history we celebrate, and which portions we condemn to academic obscurity.

Americans use history to construct our national mythology. Like Homer and Virgil before us, we compose idealized stories of virtue and create narratives that resound with the language of legendary epics. And because of this mythology building exercise, we often fail to see our own cultural reality for the flawed imperfect collection of group effort that it is. That's why we feel so betrayed when our leaders make simple human mistakes or we see representatives of our culture participating in a manner that runs counter to our values.

No where is this phenomenon so pronounced as when it comes to our national leaders. We look back on our founding fathers and through our myth building, elevate them to superhuman stature. Our high school students may not remember what wars Washington fought in or what political initiatives he took but they remember that he cut down a (fictional) cherry tree and refused to lie about it.

We remember the elegant words that our predecessors crafted without remembering the pain and suffering their efforts exacted from other people. We remember that Thomas Jefferson advocated 'Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political …' while conveniently forgetting that he was ambivalent at best to the degree that freedom extended to those in a state of slavery. We forget that founding father quarreled, that at times they misrepresented each other's interest to foreign leaders and that on occasion may have even tried to kill one another.

The founding fathers we remembered were well educated, civil and wise.

Against this tapestry of myth we watch contemporary politics play out, trying desperately to spin events into frameworks that reinforce our desires for justice and virtue.

We are all Alex, trying to reconstruct a new view of history that makes us more proud of where we come from. We invent and reinvent history to suit our needs and like Alex, do so in the name of providing a safe environment (or better way of life) for others.


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