As a school leaver, I failed to realise when revising for my A levels that some things would stay with me: my passion for the German language being one of them. If you have chosen to read my post you might expect something directly related to medicine or something I have experienced recently as a medical student. This isn’t either of those things. It’s actually a short review of a German film I’ve watched too many times and yet still have a lot of respect for. But I’d argue that this film is more related to medicine than one might initially think. It is a story of human suffering and the desire to protect a loved one from further distress.
Review: Good-Bye Lenin
Historically, the film Good Bye Lenin shows the period of the Berlin Wall falling and the two regions of Germany becoming one state. However, on a much deeper level, I believe it shows the immeasurable love that a son has for his mother. The story follows the life of Alex Kerner who lives under a communist government that he actively protests against, despite his mother being a strong supporter of the regime since her husband left the family to escape to West Germany.
One night when taking part in a demonstration, Alex is arrested. Christiane, his mother, spots him and collapses as a result. After being released from prison, Alex gets to the hospital to find Christiane lying in a coma, having suffered a heart attack. When she wakes up, Alex is told by the doctor that his mother is in a very fragile state and cannot be given any alarming information otherwise she could suffer another heart attack and very likely die. Ironically at this point, the Berlin Wall has fallen and the government that she has emotionally invested herself in is disappearing quickly.
Alex then takes it upon himself to move his mother from hospital into their apartment and recreate the world that will keep her alive. This is particularly moving as we see him rummaging through dustbins, scouring flea markets, and even recruiting his new friend at work to create films that imitate news stories and justify current events that oppose Christiane’s belief system. The story further develops as more is revealed about the other characters, particularly Alex’s father, but the one thing that remains constant, and is remarkable to me given the ever-changing circumstances, is the unwavering devotion Alex displays towards his mother.
I decided to write a review of this film in English after realising that I had only ever written analyses in German, but found it difficult to capture just how moving the story became as I learned more about German history and the language itself.
I think a part of me wanted to forget I had ever learned German after my A Level exams, but a bigger part wanted to keep challenging myself. So in spite of starting what is already a demanding degree, I decided to keep learning German, even if it means doing a vocab test a day, watching shows with subtitles, or switching languages mid-conversation.
As a first year HYMS student, Ade Akintunde is a pro at Mario Kart and sleeping. When she’s not busy making English and German blunders she works diligently to pass her exams and does not marathon Grey’s Anatomy.