Directed by: Wolfgang Becker
With: Danirl Bruhl, Katrin Sab, Chulpan Khamatova
I would have thought a film set within the context of the final symbolic erosion of communism in Germany in 1989, the tumbling of the Berlin wall and the liberation of the East, would be about as interesting as a bowl of borscht. In fact had the film not been that special bonus feature on the backside of a double dip at the local art house, this would easily have been relegated to the mental note status which, if lucky, involves my running across it randomly on TiVo years from now. But I’m glad it didn’t. Although the foundation of “Goodbye, Berlin!” is shrouded in a rather drab political veil, it’s actually a very stylized film (in a cold war, hipster, Eastern European kind of way) about a family caught in the netherworld that existed just before and after the wall.
At a protest just days before the wall fell, young twentysomething Daniel is taken away by the police while his Party-loyal mother watches from the streets and suffers a heart attack. When she awakens from a coma months later, the wall has fallen, and the Western world has taken hold. Daniel and his sister decide that rather than risk further shock on their mother’s weak heart they will hide the truth of the unfamiliar democratic world that exists outside the window of their bedridden mother. This involves everything from making fake news broadcasts to recycling old East European food containers and filling them with the contents of the new Western brands that now dominate the supermarkets.
Despite the rather heavy theme, the film is surprisingly light and predictably clever, casting stones at the almost laughable Western institutions (the Red communist banners are replaced with glowing Coke billboards) that take hold within days of “liberation.” But mostly it is the unanimously charming performances filled with fresh new faces, kind of like German versions of the hipsters “The O.C.,” drifting through a world in flux.