Inside vs. Outside in Good Bye Lenin!

Throughout the film Good Bye Lenin! there is a constant split between  the inside and the outside as the main character, Alex Kerner, attempts to deceive his mother into believing that the Socialist party is still in control over Germany. Outside their small apartment in East Berlin exists a new world with new products, companies, and structures. Whereas the outside world contains reality, the inside rooms and buildings within this film represent an escape mechanism whereas the characters are somewhat untouched by the conflict happening outside their walls. In fact, Alex’s mother, Christiane, remains bed-ridden for the majority of the film, allowing Alex and his sister Ariane to manipulate their mother into believing that her beloved socialist party has not fallen.

I began to realize this dichotomy of inside versus outside during the scene where Alex and his girlfriend Lara wake up together in a pool of light at 49:58. This scene opens with a fresh branch full of leaves framing the new apartment they found together. The camera then pans over to Alex and Lara who are in each others’ arms, their heads and arms touching as they lay in a sea of white. A soft light shines upon them as well, brightening the scene even further. My first thought when watching this scene was that the two of them being young and in love stands in for a symbol of hope and positivity amidst a world that is still trying to mend deep wounds. The fact that the scene starts with fresh green leaves on a tree hints that revival is occurring, along with new life. Furthermore, the soft natural light and the whiteness of this scene points to a sense of serenity and purity, which the two characters seem to feel as they are both asleep and intertwined. Alex and Lara being asleep and waking up together also points to a sense of freshness, despite the hard time both characters have been going through. The music that plays behind the scene also contributes to the blissfulness of this moment as it contains high notes that give off a whimsical feeling. The audience also can hear birds chirping in the background, a universal sign for peace and serenity.

The scene with Alex and Lara quickly cuts to Christiane snoring in her own room, a snore that is loud and cutting. The camera tilts up to show an unenthused Alex bringing his mother morning tea and her other needs (50:45.) Here, it is clear the inside does not always symbolize the same world of bliss as Alex experienced with Lara, however it is still a place where his mother is alive and well, believing in the world he created for her.  Alex gives off a small smile at his mother who wakes up groggy and a little confused, indicating that this inside space is still a space that is positive compared to the outside world. Later in the film, Alex even describes his world as becoming faster and faster and says “sheltered from the fast pace of the new time, was an oasis of calm,” (1:18).  He describes the apartment with his mother as a place of peace and serenity, furthering this notion of the inside being a place of bliss or even ignorant bliss.

What I have not yet made sense of is the large hole in the wall of the apartment where Alex and Lara spend the night together. This may appear to be farfetched, but perhaps it shows that Alex and lara have a window into the outside world, or reality. However, they have the ability to escape into a place where only they exist. Unlike Christiane, Alex and Lara are able to view the outside world but still exist with one another in a positive space.

3 thoughts on “Inside vs. Outside in Good Bye Lenin!”

  1. This post reminds me of Megan’s, “Physical and Psychological Walls in Goodbye Lenin!” Both you and Megan concentrated on the movie’s use of physical space as a representation of emotional and mental states. I appreciate that you identified the couple’s apartment as a crucial moment in the film when considering space because I think the film does not attend to that, even though the director chose to introduce the apartment and should thus explore its importance. I agree that the apartment embodies a haven from the mother’s apartment, but also a gateway into the new state of Germany.

  2. I agree with this idea about two different worlds that are shown by the contrast of inside and outside, just as the actual division of Germany exists. It was an insightful observation to point out that inside is a kind of shelter and shield against harm and change, almost as if it is a bad thing.
    However, the scene with Alex and Lara asleep in each other’s arms touches on the point that the outside world and change can also be good if it is embraced.
    I also thought it was interesting how you mentioned the birds chirping in the background as a “universal sign for peace and serenity.” As we have been talking about in class, ideals can often differ from culture to culture, and what is represented in one might not be pertinent to another. In this scene, i believe the birds chirping is a successful attempt at universal symbolism based on how our class received it and most likely how people in Germany received it.

  3. This blog post reminded me of the one that I wrote about the film in which I analyzed the way in which walls serve as mechanisms that create two distinct realities: one that is contained within and one that is remote and outside. Clearly this concept of inside vs. outside is a central theme within the movie.

    In terms of your discussion of the scene in which Laura and Alexander explore an exotic nightclub and then go to a remote area of the city where they sit in a wall that has been significantly destroyed, I think that you were definitely on the right track! I saw this scene as one that represents the way in which both Alex and Laura exist both in the political reality of Germany, as well as in the easily manipulated space of Alexander’s home. These two characters seek to move past the boundaries of walls: They engage in protests against the Berlin Wall because they recognize its ability to divide and restrict, and they are able to travel between the outside reality of Germany and the contained, manipulated space of Christiane’s bedroom.

    The only point of this blog that I would push back on is the idea that the concept of the “inside” is deemed as solely an escape mechanism. While Christiane’s bedroom allows her to remain secluded and untouched by the political reality outside her home and Alexander admits that the Germany he created for his mother might be better than the actual Germany that exists, I think that this “inside” is also an area of conflict. This is especially true when we examine Laura’s character and the way in which she rejects the falsified reality created by Alexander within his home.

    Also, it is important to note the irony that exists in the fact that Alexander, despite being adamantly against the Berlin Wall and the way in which it allowed the government to manipulate and control its people, actually builds his own type of Berlin Wall by allowing the walls of his mother’s bedroom to serve as barriers that prevent anything from occurring without his permission or guidance.

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