Hailed as Best European Film at the 2003 Berlin Film Festival, "Good Bye Lenin!" looks destined to become one of Germany's biggest international hits. Set in the former East Germany, just before the fall of the Berlin wall, the story is a classic Rip Van Winkle-style satire, with an absurdist streak that's as engaging as it is unexpected.
It's 1989 and the citizens of Communist East Germany have just been dragged kicking and screaming (for joy) into the present as, brick by brick and chunk by chunk, the wall dividing them from the capitalist paradise of West Germany is demolished.
For Christiane Kerner (Katrin Saß), though, nothing has changed. This single mother of two and fully-fledged Communist Party supporter doesn't even realise that the Cold War is over, since she fell into a coma just before the wall came down.
Desperate to keep his mother from suffering a fatal heart attack, Alex (Daniel Brühl) is under doctor's orders to make sure she still thinks Communism is alive and well. So, as Burger Kings replace ration queues and Coca-Cola adverts knock Lenin off his perch, Alex has to keep his bed-ridden mother completely in the dark by faking news reports of the continuing triumph of Communism with the help of his sister Ariane (Maria Simon) and best friend Denis (Florian Lukas).
Wolfgang Becker's film about one man's attempt to make history stand still is a tragi-comic journey into political upheaval and personal worries. Taking wry pot-shots at the monolithic ideologies of Communism and Capitalism, Becker turns this family's crisis into a symbol of Germany's own attempt to heal old wounds and rebuild itself.
It's an intriguing concept, hampered only by the curse of all farce: after taking us to the brink of absurdity, it's difficult to reel us back in for the emotionally fraught conclusion.
In German with English subtitles.