Friday, July 06, 2007

The Only East German on the Streets of Berlin

Alex Kerner is dating a Russian. They met while protesting the wall and the repression of East German press. It is now 1990, the wall has fallen, and Alex is acting... strange.

He refuses to wear modern clothing in place of the shoddy combine-made garb available under the old regime, the apartment he shares with his mother and sister is constantly overrun with those who refuse to adjust to capitalism, and he is conducting a city-wide search for the generic label of pickles that alone was available under communism.

Meanwhile, a friend from West of the wall is busy recording a video detailing the theft of Coca-Cola by capitalist states from a socialist one.

No, Alex is not a communist revolutionary. His revolt is one not against any state, leader, or idea. It is broader than that. His revolt is against the truth itself.
A dangerous man, you say?

You see his mother, a steadfast party worker, has slept through two thirds of a year and does not know of socialism’s fall. Now that she’s awake, Alex has been informed that any surprise will kill her and, judging from her past reactions to stress, he believes it. To keep her alive, the DDR must also be kept alive—if only from her bedroom out as far as her windows show.

This is the plot of Good Bye, Lenin!, a German film of epic tragi-comedic proportions from 2003. Director and co-writer Wolfgang Becker has taken such care in recreating the transitions of time and place that it was almost alarming to my East-German friend. But he has taken just as much care in his characters and in his story.

A dangerous man, this Alexander Kerner? Perhaps, but only to himself as, for all the sweat and tears invested, the only one he manages to delude is himself.

Two thumbs up? What’s that mean? I raise nine full fingers.