It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
East Berlin, 1989. In the final days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, there are riots against the regime. A loyal communist named Christiane (Katrin Sass) sees her son, Alex (Daniel Bruhl), beaten by the police on television, suffers an attack of some sort and lapses into a coma. During the months she is unconscious, the wall falls, Germany is reunified and the world as she knew it disappears. When she miraculously regains consciousness, the doctors advise, as doctors always do in the movies, "the slightest shock could kill her."
What to do? After her husband abandoned her (for another woman, she told her children), the German Democratic Republic became her life. To learn that it has failed ignominiously would surely kill her, and so Alex decides to create a fictional world for her in which Eric Honecker is still in office, consumer shortages are still the rule and the state television still sings the praises of the regime.
"Goodbye, Lenin!" is a movie that must have resonated loudly in Germany when it was released; it is no doubt filled with references and in-jokes we do not quite understand. But the central idea travels well: Imagine an American Rip Van Winkle who is told that President Gore has led a United Nations coalition in liberating Afghanistan while cutting taxes for working people, attacking polluters and forcing the drug companies to cut their bloated profits. Sorry, something came over me for a second ...
Change, when it comes to East Germany, arrives in a torrent. Alex is reduced to plundering dumpsters for discarded cans and boxes which contained GDR consumer products that were swept away by the arrival of competition. In his day job, he sells satellite systems with his friend Denis (Florian Lukas), and together the two of them produce phony news broadcasts to show his mom -- even enlisting a former East German astronaut for plausibility.