Last night I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a couple years now: I drove out past a tiny town to the middle of a field, wandered into a bunker, and watched a movie. The last time I’d planned this, it was as a mystery date with The Boy, and our plans got snowstormed out. This time, he stayed in to save up strength for a hockey game later in the evening, but I was still happy to have made it out.
As a side-note, it would be really nice if drivers in the semi-rural areas near our house would learn that driving with their highbeams on is actually not necessary when they’re in a place that has streetlights regularly spaced along the road. Really. Aside from the fact that 90% of said drivers don’t turn them off even when they see me (which, yeah, thanks a lot guys), it just seems kind of silly. At one point I was driving down the main street in the town, houses on either side, and people were moseying along blinding me with their highbeams. Seriously?
So yes, I headed to the bunker and watched Good Bye Lenin! For a movie in the Cold War Cinema lineup, I was surprised at how light this film was: definitely a story more about the characters — a brother and sister looking after their mother with the help of friends — than about the political backdrop of the times.
Having said that, I did enjoy the nucleus of characters around which spun the dizzying reunification story of Germany, mostly because they also pulled in all different directions.
Alex, the older brother, clearly operated from the past. Rooting in a good deal of tradition and filial loyalty, he occasionally has outbursts showing his indoctrination in the society he recreates for his mom.
Ariane, his younger sister, is forever moving forward. She represents progress in the form of children, Western society, her views, even her ever-changing hair.
Lara and Rainer, the respective significant others of the siblings are gentle counterpoints, more there to set off and define the characters than to move the story forward while Christiane, Alex’s mother, has an interesting role I’m not entirely sure I’ve figured out yet.
Throughout the movie, I found myself a little disconcerted to hear Yann Tiersen’s piano backdrop, made famous in Amélie two years earlier. The music worked well with the story, it’s just that for me, personally, I’ve attached it so firmly to Amélie that it caused more than a little cognitive jarring.
So, how was it overall? Good. It’s a wistful movie based around good characters. Although it borders on being a chickflick at times, there are enough thoughtful details to keep the viewer interested the entire time. As frosting on top of all that, it also offers a really nice view of what must have been a violently changing time in Germany’s history, even though I’m sure that part was smoothed over and cozied up a little.
It’s probably not a movie I’d ever have picked up myself off a movie rental shelf, but I have no regrets about going to see it. Entertaining, heart-warming, educational. Old system: 7/9