Communist plot unfolds

April 09, 2004|By Deborah Hornblow | Deborah Hornblow,HARTFORD COURANT

Off-hand, it is hard to name a more charming, funny and endearing film about a son's devotion to his mother than German director Wolfgang Becker's comedy Good bye, Lenin!

Lenin is narrated by Alex (Daniel Bruhl), a young man whose childhood is defined by the departure of his father, a physician, for the West and the mental breakdown his mother suffers as a result. His mother's recovery has a great deal to do with her devotion to the socialist German Democratic Republic, and she relishes her positions as leader of the Young Pioneers.

But Becker's story quickly skips ahead a decade to 1989, to the eve of the riots that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the arrival of capitalism in East Germany. A moment that should be marked by jubilation comes with complications for Alex and his sister Ariane (Maria Simon): Their mother, Christiane (Katrin Sass), suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma. When she wakes eight months later, doctors warn that she cannot survive any great shocks, none the least of which would be news that her beloved Communist republic is no more. So Alex and Ariane conspire to re-create the Communist state that was, at least inside the confines of their mother's bedroom.

Becker's film derives great comedy from Alex's efforts to procure the East German grocery brands his mother craves.

Ariane's job at Burger King must be concealed. The Coca-Cola signs and foreign sports cars proliferating in the neighborhood must be hidden or somehow explained away.

Good bye, Lenin! is a wonder of a film with humor and heart and political savvy to spare.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Good bye, Lenin!

Starring Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sass and Maria Simon

Directed by Wolfgang Becker

Rated R (adult language)

Released by Sony Pictures Classics

Time 121 minutes

Sun Score ***1/2

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