Germany

Synopsis

October 1989 was a bad time to fall into a coma if you lived in East Germany - and this is precisely what happens to Alex's mother, an activist for social progress and the improvement of everyday life in socialist East Germany. Alex has a big problem on his hands when she suddenly awakens eight months later. Her heart is so weak that any shock might kill her. And what could be more shocking than the fall of the Berlin Wall and the triumph of capitalism in her beloved country? To save his mother, Alex transforms the family apartment into an island of the past, where his mother is lovingly duped into believing that nothing has changed. What begins as a little white lie gets more and more out of hand as Alex's mother, who feels better every day, wants to watch TV and even leaves her bed one day ... In a wonderful, touching and comic manner, Wolfgang Becker ('Life Is All You Get') tells the story of how a loving son tries to move mountains and create miracles to restore his mother to health - keep her in the belief that Lenin really did win after all!

Director's Statement

I was fascinated by the idea of a son trying to save his mother's lite, trying to keep death at bay with a lie and getting more and more entangled in his lie about an East Germany that no longer exists and that he wants to make his mother continue to believe in. This is something that's universal and could be totally separated from this specific past, this whole East German story and the fall of the Wall and reunification. I was excited by the idea of combining both aspects and relating an important chapter of German history as well, or least having it as a Background. That's what's so wonderful about this topic. It's a slice of German history, but it's told incidentally and not placed in the fore-front of the story.
I wanted people to believe in Daniel Brühl's character and to believe that he does all this without having analyzed everything beforehand. And Daniel portrays this fantastically, because he is simply a very emotional actor. Not for one second do I have any doubts about him or why he does all of this for his mother. He makes it seem totally compelling that at the very moment in which he could actually be taking concrete steps toward the future - he's just fallen in love, has so many options to choose from, everything has changed, it's a wonderful summer of change - he suddenly moves in a different direction, namely backwards, to rebuild what everyone else is merrily leaving behind them. Daniel brings just the right warmth and emotional component to the role, which makes you immediately forget why he goes through all this for his mother.
When I think of Katrin Sass [who plays the Mother), I immediately think of her naturalness and the naturalness of her speech. Of the way she has of relying on very few means and never even coming close to overacting. To me, film is also always a cinema of the eyes, and her eyes are just perfect, which is something you don't encounter too often.
I would definitely not call her a hard-line socialist. I would describe her rather as a woman with a classical helper's syndrome, a type that exists in other social systems as well. There is nothing typically former East German-like here. She's a woman who takes great enjoyment in helping others, and even feels a certain obligation to do so. She simply does it. She's a woman who lives in a country without alternatives. She just can't go anywhere else.

Director's Biography

Wolfgang Becker was born in Hemer in North Rhine Westphalia in 1954. After graduating from high school, he studied German and American history and literature at the Free University in Berlin. He then studied at the German Film and Television Academy. He first aroused attention with his graduating film SCHMETTERLINGE (BUTTERFLIES). The adaptation of a short story by the British author lan McEwan won the Student Film Award (Oscar for the best student film) in Hollywood, the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival as well as the Saarland Premier Award at the Max Ophüls Festival in 1988.
Following a widely praised episode (BLUTWURSTWALZER, [BLOOD SAUSAGE WALTZ]) for the series TATORT (SCENE OF THE CRIME) in 1991, Wolfgang Becker directed an admired television film, KINDERSPIELE (CHILD'S PLAY), which was later distributed to cinemas.
The first film Becker directed for X FILME CREATIVE POOL GmbH, which he co-founded, was DAS LEBEN IST EINE BAUSTELLE (LIFE IS ALL YOU GET, 1997) with Jürgen Vogel and Christiane Paul in the leading roles. lt was a terrific success at the box office.

Filmography:

2002 GOOD BYE, LENIN! (feature)
1997 DAS LEBEN IST EINE BAUSTELLE (LIFE IS ALL YOU GET) (feature)
1992 KINDERSPIELE (TV); CELIBIDACHE (documentary)
1991 BLUTWURSTWALZER [BLOOD SAUSAGE WALTZ); episode of TV series TATORT (SCENE OF THE CRIME)
1987 SCHMETTERLINGE (BUTTERFLIES) (feature)
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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Wolfgang Becker

Written by: Bernd Lichtenberg

Produced by: Stefan Arndt

Cinematography: Martin Kukula

Editing: Peter Adam

Production Design: Lothar Holler

Costume Design: Aenne Plaumann

Make-Up & Hair: Lena Lazzarotto, Björn Rehbein

Main Cast: Florian Lukas (Denis), Daniel Brühl (Alex), Alexander Beyer (Rainer), Katrin Sass (Alex's mother ), Burghart Klaußner (Alex's father), Franziska Troegner (Mrs. Schäfer), Chulpan Khamatova (Lara), Michael Gwisdek (Principal Dr. Klapprath), Maria Simon (Ariane)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Film 2003
  • European Actor 2003
  • European Screenwriter 2003
  • People's Choice Award 2003
  • European Actress 2003
  • European Director 2003
  • Feature Film Selection 2003