Deep analysis of the democratization in Germany during the unification of west and east Germany.
Set in 1989, Wolfgang Becker’s movie, Good Bye Lenin, illustrates the social turmoil brought amongst eastern Germans during the westernization in the divided German nation-state. The Kerner family physically represent the historical division of Germany while under the auspices of Allied forces. The four family members: Robert, Christiane, Ariane, and Alex – act as the four factions that had formed from the expedited economic and political intervention after WWII. In juxtaposition to the long-term effects of post-war territory configurations in Germany, Robert and Christiane symbolize the dichotomous ideologies of Capitalism and Communism.
The prevalence of the father’s absence in Good Bye Lenin accentuates Germany’s loss of faith in democratic values that followed the Great Depression. Robert reflects his opposition of the Communist authoritarian regime by leaving to west Germany, thus, leaving young Alex distraught by his mother’s catatonic depression. During his mother’s depression and father’s leave, young Alex became increasingly influenced by Sigmund Jähn, the Cosmonaut, a childish image of USSR Cold War propaganda. However, although Alex grew up under his mother’s pristine discipline to the Communist party, and influence of USSR Cold War propaganda, Alex became “more like his father every day.” Inevitably, democratization and westernization gradually framed Alex and Ariane’s adult years, where Ariane dropped out of school to work for corporate Burger King, and Alex practiced his freedom of expression to support his mother’s ideology.
In full attempt to successfully protect his mother’s idealist vision, Alex came across capitalist impediments when trying to purchase traditional eastern foods such as Spreewald pickles. East Germany felt the influx of corporatism, and the change in the economy caused the western German Mark to steamroll the eastern German Mark in a ratio of 2:1. Furthermore, during the scene Alex wildly searches for his mother’s secret stash of money in the old furniture, Herr Ganske idly hangs around and complains, “this is how they left us.” Unfortunately, Herr Ganske exemplifies the mass unemployment that plagued older eastern Germans after Germany’s unification. In contrast to the unemployed Germans, both Alex and Ariane work corporate jobs with demanding hours. On one instance where Alex slept, his mother mentioned, “Alex wasn’t always so tired after work,” ironically commentating on the burdens of jobs under Capitalism.
After the mother confesses to Alex and Ariane about lying of the father’s infidelity, the following scene of Ariane rummaging through the hidden envelopes highlights a shift in favor for democracy; this dramatic climax highlights the rigged election committed by the German Communist party in 1946 (Potter 104). In light of the prevailing truth, Alex remained sanguine and continued to carry out the protection of his mother’s ideology. With the democratic freedom to alternative sources of information (Aktualle Television,) Alex stimulated his mother’s public contestation and right to participate, which is necessary for democratization (Dahl 3). Finally, the mother’s awareness of democratization is put into question during the scene she walks hand in hand with the baby, Paula. The scene casts an allegorical picture of the old regime succumbing to the new regime, even as the mother waves goodbye to the statue of Lenin.
In conclusion, the historical repression in Germany caused rapid insurgences of democratization to derive Liberalization and inclusiveness, as conveyed in Good Bye Lenin (Dahl 7). The democratization process demobilized the aristocracy and Junkers due to demilitarization, thus, completely eradicating any menacing power that would vacillate the order of the regime (Potter 88). Democracy naturally fit the configures of Germany because of the many differing ideologies such as the German Social Democrats, Centre party, and German Communist party. Much of the Allied external influences motivated the democratization of Germany, but the deep social divisions predominately existed due to the assiduous class suppression led by the aristocratic bourgeoisie coalition. The German liberal-democracy is facetiously consolidated in the movie through the extended joke of the significance of satellite dishes for screening German soccer, and finally ends with the death of the old regime.
Becker, Wolfgang, dir. Good Bye Lenin. X-Filme Creative Pool, 2003. Film.
Bessel, “The Crisis of Modern Democracy, 1919-45,” Chapter 3 in Potter et. al.
Dahl, Robert. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. Yale University Press, 1971. Print.
Goldblatt, David, et. al. “Democracy in the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’: 1760-1919,” Chapter 2 in Potter et. al. Democratization.
Goldblatt, David, et. al. “Democracy in Europe: 1939-89,” Chapter 4 in Potter et. al. Democratization