By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Apr 16, 2004 at 5:29 AM

{image1}Director Wolfgang Becker's "Good Bye Lenin!" is either the saddest comedy or the funniest tragedy you'll likely see this year.

What, on the surface, appears to be a film about a young man trying to save his mother's life by shielding her from the truth, has a subtext that is equally engaging.

Alex (Daniel Bruhl) has grown up in East Berlin in the thrall of Sigmund Jahn, the first German in space. Perhaps he needed a father figure after his dad (Burghart Klaussner) left Alex, his mother and his sister Ariane (Maria Simon) for a new life, and a new girlfriend, in the west.

With her husband gone, Christiane Kerner (Katrin Sass), Alex's mom, becomes, in his words, "married to the Socialist state," and she spends her time speaking up for her fellow citizens and collecting awards from the government.

But when she sees her son and others being brutally beaten during a peaceful march she has a heart attack and falls into a coma. Eight months later she awakes, but she remains fragile and must be kept free of shock and excitement.

So, how can her children explain to her that during her time in the coma, the Berlin wall fell and East met West in a very big way; that her beloved socialist republic is dead? Well, they decide not to tell her and Alex must carry on a high-energy charade to recreate East Germany in their apartment.

He does a marvelous job, even if it begins to take a toll on his job and on his sweet new girlfriend Lara (Chulpan Khamatova). It is during these scenes that the film finds its most comedic moments. Alex and his co-worker, an aspiring filmmaker, create fake news broadcasts and he collects empty East German food packages from dumpsters so that his mother won't find out that all the old familiar brands have been replaced by more "glamorous" western ones.

But, there is also tragedy, as Alex and Ariane find out more about their father's disappearance and what really transpired is not what they believed for so many years. And it is a little tragic finding out that in re-creating East Berlin for his mother, he's really creating a more utopian and kind-hearted socialist society he and his mother had believed in and never really experienced.

"Good Bye Lenin!" is filled with a boy's love for his mother, for his homeland, for a pretty girl. But it is also filled with anger, regret, joy and triumph and, is a warm and enjoyable film.

The often melancholic soundtrack, by Yann Tiersen, is exquisite, perfectly mimicking the ups and downs of the script. You might remember Tiersen's music from "Amelie," and indeed, one of his compositions from that film also appears here.

"Good Bye Lenin!" opens Fri., April 16 at Landmark's Downer Theatre.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.