Movie: Good-Bye, Lenin!

by Eszter Hargittai on December 25, 2003

I just saw the movie Good-Bye, Lenin! It is about a young man in East Berlin struggling to make it seem to his sick mother as though the Berlin wall hadn’t fallen and nothing had changed since when she fell into a coma (just before the political changes) in order to make sure she doesn’t have a relapse. It was a good movie, I recommend it.

It will bring back quite a few memories for those who lived in an Eastern European country in the 1980s. Speaking from that perspective, it was great. I suspect it’s quite good from another perspective as well, but I know my take on it was definitely influenced by recognizing so many things from 1980s Hungary and the changes that followed.

One of my favorite parts was the son’s experience looking for old food items in the supermarket as he tried to satisfy his mother’s requests for snacks. The inventory of grocery stores had changed very quickly in those years. I remember great products disappearing from the shelves. Companies from the West would buy up plants in these countries only to stop production of existing local products. They thereby eliminated competition for their own products with which they flooded these new markets. Some of the foods that disappeared were really wonderful and the assumption that anything from the West must be better was frustrating. (I guess we can add this to the list of cases where better quality does not always lead to triumph in the market.. but in this case mostly because the products were removed from the market even before they had a chance to compete.)

The movie does a good job of portraying how personal lives were affected by what on the surface may just seem like political issues. For more on the movie, read this review in the Guardian.

{ 1 comment }


Kristjan Wager 12.26.03 at 8:57 pm

My mother told me that she saw that movie in Australia a few days ago. She lived in Denmark from 1975 to 2000, so she could relate to it, but she wondered how much other Australians would get out of it. Nevertheless she also recommended it, so I will try to get around to seeing it, though I haven’t seen it up in any cinemas here in Denmark.

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