How does Contemporary German Cinema portray the past?

 This blog post will examine how East Germany which has been split apart since the Second World War, processed the reunification after the Berlin Wall collapsed on the 9th of November in 1989. The Soviet Union controlled “East Germany was a regime built on lies, but it literally couldn’t afford to cover up its past.”(Funder, 2007) The film in which this essay will focus on is Wolfgang Beckers’s Good Bye Lenin! (2003) and how it emphasises the nostalgia of the past GDR (German Democratic Republic) and the optimism for the future.

Good Bye Lenin! (Becker, 2003)

Having established that after the Berlin Wall fell the Western Capitalist society changed every aspects of life. New consumer product commercials, advertising slogans substitutes the socialist propaganda as Anderson explained in 2010 “The red banner promoting Coca-Cola evokes memories of red banners in praise of Lenin.”(p.220-221). In the pre-1989 the western products were not reachable for the mass, this state made the unification undesirable. In the film that Alex’s sister gets a job in Burger King which ends her studies and Alex’s first time in the Western part of Berlin led him to a bizarre sex shop demonstrates, the cultural changes after the reunification.

Good Bye Lenin! (Becker, 2003)

Another crucial point I need to mention is the nostalgia. “The term nostalgia, as has often been observed, is a compound of two Greek words, nostos (the return home) and algos (grief, pain, or sorrow).” (Boyer, 2006, p.362) of the Eastern Germany, called “‘Ostalgie’ serves the desires of western Germans to claim a future ‘free from the burden of history’ because nostalgia for certain aspects of the GDR makes it appear as if eastern Germans are still mired in an authoritarian past.” (Anderson, 2010, p.208). However, Boyer argues of the Ostalgie’s existence he says “Ostalgie is not what it seems to be—it is a symptom less of East German nostalgia than of West German utopia.” (2006, p.363). The evidence suggest that Ostalgie is just a romanticised idea indicating the fact that in real life we have never seen anyone who genuinely missed the GDR after the Western cultural shock. As Alex is creating an authentic atmosphere to his mum, he pushes the concept of Ostalgie and overcome by the memories of his childhood. Even though “Alex at first desires to kill the authoritarian father, the father who has castrated his own biological father.” (Boyer, 2006, p.376) at the end we get the feeling that he forces things for the reason to recreate the feeling of his own real home where once he felt light-hearted as a child.

In conclusion, the film’s ironic tone criticizes the nostalgia of the romanticised socialist community that never existed. As Ginsberg and Thompson examines, although “…many texts of German cinema studies have mobilized updated and revised understandings of subjectivity, reformulating old notions of guilt, memory, dreamwork, and imagination” (1996, p.8) Good Bye Lenin! tends to show us how Ostalgie glosses over a strict, restrained regime with ashamed nostalgia for the socialist era.

Bibliography:

~Anderson, S. (2010) Unification and Difference in German Post-Wall Cinema. In C. Anton & F. Pilipp (Eds.) Beyond Political Correctness: Remapping German Sensibilities in the 21st Century. Amsterdam & New York: Rodopi 

~Becker, W. (Director). (2003). Good Bye, Lenin!. [Motion Picture]. Germany: X-Filme Creative Pool

~Boyer,D (2006) ‘Ostalgie and the Politics of the Future in Eastern Germany’, Public Culture, 18:2, pp 361-81

~Funder, A (2007) ”Tyranny of Terror”. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/may/05/featuresreviews.guardianreview12

~Ginsberg, T & Thompson, K. (1996). Perspectives on German Cinema. London: Prentice Hall

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