Directed by Wolfgang Becker. Reviewed by Andrew Jackson It is 1989 and Christiane Kerner, mother of two and decorated citizen of the German Democratic Republic (GDR — East Germany), has fallen into a coma. For eight months she lies in hospital, life support machines whirring and beeping, blissfully unaware of the turmoil and counter-revolution taking place outside. When she wakens, the doctors warn her ever-faithful son Alex that her recovery may be only temporary, her heart so weak that shock or distress of any kind will certainly bring death. How does Alex then protect his mother from the inevitable shock she will face on learning her beloved socialist homeland has been swept away? Alex decides his mother mustn't know, and through elaborate set- making, scheming and outright lying he sets about recreating a last insular pocket of GDR in their apartment. As his mother's strength grows so does her suspicion that something is seriously amiss, and so Alex is forced to greater lengths and wilder concoctions to conceal the truth. After the spate of ferociously anti-communist films made in Eastern Europe during the last decade, notably Burnt By The Sun and The Inner Circle, I certainly approached this film with great scepticism. A reviewer for the UK Guardian saw the film as a damning indictment of East German Communism. "It is a farce, founded on dishonesty: like the old regime itself. And Alex has become the neurotic, control-freak prime minister, acting on behalf of an ageing, debilitated monarch." However, the narrative created by the Guardian reviewer appears to have been the product of both an overactive imagination and his own hysterical anti-communism. Goodbye Lenin! is certainly not pro-socialist, occasionally resorting to ridicule of GDR life and those who continued to believe. The son strives to recreate the East German reality for his mother, but he is naturally unable to recreate the free health care or guaranteed employment and housing, and indeed the film ignores this aspect of GDR life. It does remind us of the job losses that followed reunification, but by taking some of the "shortcomings" of GDR life (less consumer goods than in the West, for example) out of context it gives them undue emphasis. Christiane's surprise that the family had been allocated a car "after only three years" is one of these moments. However, the force used by the police against 1989 anti- government protestors we see in the film pales against the lethal brutality meted out by the capitalist states in recent years against anti-capitalist protestors in Gothenburg, Seattle and Genoa. But the film also captures the sense of great loss felt by Alex, his friends and neighbours — even those who embraced the West. Alex is not alone in his deception, he quickly finds many who, for various personal reasons, are willing to participate in his charade. As events escalate, Alex must even reassess his own motives: "Somehow, my scheme had taken on a life of its own. The GDR I created for her increasingly became the one I might have wished for". Some reviewers have passed off the film's box-office success as part of the wave of "Ostalgia" (nostalgia by Easterners) currently sweeping Germany. This term, however, is dismissive and perhaps patronising of the genuine and heartfelt yearning many people have for the life and culture they enjoyed in the GDR. "Ostalgia" also dismisses those who continue to hold a firm belief in the socialist system. How widespread this belief remains was demonstrated in a recent TV series and poll in which Germans were asked to vote for the "100 greatest Germans of history". In an upset result Karl Marx came in third. Out of a list of 500 Germans to choose from, those living in the East (former GDR) gave a massive 40 percent of their votes to Marx, putting him in first place in four of the five Eastern states. At one point in the poll Marx lead the vote across the whole of Germany. There is growing dissatisfaction amongst Easterners of their new life. Twenty percent unemployment and continuing wealth disparity with the West have awoken feelings of "perhaps our imperfect past was no so bad after all" . T-shirts and flags with the GDR logo are displayed proudly on the streets; 400 films made in the East have been transferred to video and snapped up on both sides of the country. Consumer products of the East are reappearing on supermarket shelves bearing their familiar logos. Whether this ostalgia reinvigorates the socialist movement and provides momentum carrying them forward to the restoration of socialism remains to be seen. Those who bid "goodbye" to Lenin in 1989 perhaps should have said "until next time!" Goodbye Lenin! opens in capital cities on Dec 26 at Dendy, Keno, Palace & Nova cinemas & selected independent theatres.