The movie starts on a train before the Berlin Wall was built, which initially threw me off. After the initial scene, the film cuts to the main characters, a family of three, getting ready for the evening. The parents are going to a friend's birthday party in what will soon become West Berlin and their teenage son is staying at a friend's house for the night. It is evident already that the people the son is staying with and the people hosting the birthday party have a different outlook on life.
The parents are on their way home, when suddenly, everyone around them is panicking. Just like reality, the city was divided without warning. The parents don't want to return to the East and be trapped, but they also want to be reunited with their son. Little do they know how much his life is changing as his friend's mom works to mold him into the perfect East German soldier. Soon, the beginning of the movie becomes clear and helps explain why the family remains separated.
|The son being molded into an East German citizen (source: cinefacts.de)|
I've mentioned before that I was only alive for a year while the wall was still up, so my knowledge is limited to other people's stories. But, while many account years of separation from family members, a lot of the other movies about the subject don't focus on that aspect. Despite the few extra layers, the movie was about parents trying to make a better life for their family after the city was divided, which included attempting to rescue and even just contact their son. I found myself even more invested in their journey than that of the star-crossed lovers in Das Versprechen.
Even though the beginning was initially confusing to me, the movie was full of suspense from the first minute. The viewer is kept wondering what will come from each action and effort. The characters struggle and fail in realistic ways, but small successes bring hope. The final few scenes had my full attention.
|The father eventually started losing hope (source: cinefacts.de)|
The setting was also interesting. It's almost the opposite of Goodbye Lenin in that the movie shows only the first few months after the wall went up. There's a summary at the end of the movie telling what happened in the following years, but the acting ends while the wall is still in its early stages. Just as the characters in Goodbye Lenin were shocked by how quickly the wall came down, it's shocking here how quickly the citizens of Berlin were shut off from each other.
However, from this film, it seems like something like the wall wasn't totally unexpected. Not only did the family experience some oppression, but some citizens, like the friend's mother had already bought into the East German ideology. Soldiers were immediately ready to guard the border and citizens were trapped on one side or the other. Some of the most heartbreaking scenes show loved ones seeing each other beyond the border but not being able to do anything about it.
|Looking for their son beyond the wall (source: kino.de)|
This was a much better movie than I expected. Granted, I expected to be disappointed, but it was a great film. Unfortunately, it's a little hard to find. It is on Amazon.de, but it's Region 2, which won't play on US DVD players or computers. There are ways around it and most computers can switch regions a limited number of times, but if you find a copy of it, take the opportunity to watch it.