NAME: Kevin Griffin
COURSE: English and Film
MODULE: Cultural and Literary Theory
ASSIGNMENT TITLE: The Construction of an Imaginary Fatherland in Good Bye, Lenin!
The introduction of Good Bye, Lenin! begins with the playing of old video-camera recordings of the Kerner family during Alex’s childhood, before the departure of his father. In her essay on nostalgia (or Ostalgie) in New German cinema, Jennifer M. Kapczynski draws on the ideas of Fredric Jameson to suggest that: ‘the key characteristic of post-modern nostalgia films [is that they] render the past as a ‘consumable set of images’ composed of objects and surfaces. In the case of Good Bye, Lenin! the newsreel footage of the young Alex, with its glazed and aged look places the audience immediately within the setting of late 1970s or early 1980s. It is important to note that Alex is himself part of the audience as it is he who is the primary viewer of these tapes. For Alex the tapes recall a time when his family was united, and his awareness of political turmoil was nil. Baudrillard writes: ‘Our entire linear and accumulative culture would collapse if we could not stockpile the past in plain view’. To this end, Baudrillard suggests that we need substantial proof of our past to reassure us as to our corporeal sentience, because due to simulation, we scarcely believe in our own existence. We also need to revisit, re-examine and reassess our past continually to maintain the assurance that it gives us. Thus in watching the footage of his childhood, which not only displays a happy nuclear family but is also draped in the red banners of the socialist German Democratic Republic, Alex affirms the idealistic imaginary that he later propagates when creating his own GDR. The montage of old camcorder footage is knitted together with images relating to the socialist era and the aesthetic of the introduction appears to borrow from the photo-montage style of Aleksander Rodchenko, a famous son of Communist Russia, from the early twentieth century. The resultant effect is that an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a bygone era is immediately generated.