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GOODBYE, LENIN! DVD review

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DVD REVIEW: GOODBYE, LENIN!

by David Blackwell

Christiane Kerner is totally devoted to the ideas of the German Democratic Republic after her husband defects to West Germany. In 1989, she has a heart attack and lapses into a coma. While she is in a coma, the world changes and the Berlin Wall comes down. Her son, Alex, wanted to be an astronaut when he was a kid. He grew up to be a TV repairman and then started selling satellite dishes after the Berlin Wall came down while his sister went to work at the Burger King. Alex bumps into Lara (who he first met on October 7, 1989 during a protest march), a nurse, and he starts to fall for her.

Then Alex's mother wakes up and Alex is told his mother won't survive a second heart attack. Alex takes her home and starts to make up a world that doesn't exist anymore to keep his mother in the dark (about the changes that would cause her to become agitated over). Alex recruits his friend Denis to make fake news broadcasts as Alex hope he can tell his mother the truth when she recovers. When the lies start, they get bigger over time as Alex starts to see a perfect idealized GDR he wish he grew up in.

GOODBYE, LENIN! is a movie about the relationship between a mother and the son who loves here. It is also a movie about change and a world that Alex wish he grew up in (compared to the one he did). The movie is charming and funny. The movie's charm gives me the same feeling I had when I was watching AMELIE. GOODBYE, LENIN! does make fun of the socialist and captialist societies while also showing that people end up divided over change. It is one of the best foreign films to come to DVD this year.

VIDEO/AUDIO: The movie is presented in 1.85 Anamorphic Widescreen with a nice sounding German 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track (with the option of English subtitles). It is really hard to judge the picture. It isn't sharp like some other DVDs (but on par with some of the other movies released to DVD by Sony Picture Classics), but you have a mix of 16 mm and archive TV footage mixed in with 35 mm. I didn't see any visible artifacts. 

SPECIAL FEATURES: All special features are subtitled. First, there are two commentary tracks: director and cast (remember to turn back on the subtitles when you play the movie and don't see the English subtitles popping up). The director's track is a very informative track about the problematic production of a movie done on too little money. From bad weather to the actress (playing Lara) being sick and causing 14 days to be lost in the shooting schedule (and cause some availability nightmares later on for some of the cast), Wolfgang Becker made the movie he wanted to make. He also goes on and say that it would be impossible to film a movie (taking place in 1990 Berlin) in 2001 Berlin using simple methods on a small budget. He mentions how it is not possible to film in real hospitals in Berlin these days (due to how movie and TV productions have burned the hospitals). He also talks about the scenes, the actors, and how he saw Christiane compared to how critics saw her (as a SED supporter).  The cast commentary features Daniel Bruhl (Alex), Katrin Sass( Christiane), and Alexander Beyer (Denis).    The commentary is entertaining, but it does focus alot on stories Katrin and Alexander tell about living in the GDR before and after the Wall came down.

Second, the DVD has 10 deleted scenes that come out to about 20 minutes and feature some scenes with Lara and Alex's friend (Denis) that were cut among other surprises. Each scene starts and ends where it would have fit into the movie. I enjoyed the deleted scenes even though I could see why they were cut or edited down (definitely after watching the scenes with commentary). There is a commentary option for nine of the deleted scenes (no commentary for the "Back To The Future" scene) that runs to 42 minutes. Director Wolfgang Becker and the editor (brought in to cut the movie down in 3 days) talk about why some scenes were cut for pacing while other scenes didn't feel needed (but played fine alone) or didn't work in the movie. The editor cut the movie down from 164 minutes to 100 minutes, then the movie came in a final cut of 121 minutes.

Third, the 20 minute "Lenin Learns How To Fly" Visual Featurette shows how the statue of Lenin was created on the computer. Then the featurette goes into how some buildings had to be digitally altered to look like the way they were back in 1990. Wolfgang Becker says he likes to do special effects that people don't notice (that they are CG effects). Also there is a 1 1/2 minute "Mini-Making of" Featurette that basically amounts to a video montage of behind-the-scenes production footage mixed in with stuff from the movie done to the music of the movie.

Next, you can watch the Uncut "Aktuelle Kamera" Broadcasts that were shown during the movie to make Alex's mother believe the GDR still existed. It runs for 7 1/2 minutes in total.

Finally, there are three previews: BON VOYAGE, MONSIEUR IBRAHM, KAENA: THE PROPHECY, and the theater trailer for GOODBYE, LENIN!

Also there is a forced trailer for BROKEN WINGS that plays before the main menu (but the trailer isn't included in the previews section).

FINAL ANALYSIS: This touching and charming drama is one of the best foreign films I have seen this year, and I can see why it has won so many awards in Europe (6 European Film Awards and 9 German Film Awards- Best Picture and Best Director for both). The DVD has some good extras too. I highly recommend this movie if you want something instead of the usual Hollywood movies. 

this DVD review is (c)7-30-2004 David Blackwell. this review cannot be reprinted without prior permission. send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com  and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia