This article examines two influential post-Wende (fall of the Wall) films about the former GDR and German unification, Wolfgang Becker’s Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others (2006). The films radically differ in terms of cinematic strategies, ideological positioning of the spectator, and the narrative function of gender. Considering the two films in terms of their critical reception, feminist theories of narrative, and Mary Fulbrook’s “octopus theory” of the GDR, I argue that gender plays a key role in the films’ diverging reconstructions of the former East. While the narrative and cinematic organization of The Lives of Others provide the viewer with an ideologically distinct, nostalgic reconstruction of a Cold War narrative of the GDR, in which the female protagonist and the GDR are clearly vilified, Good Bye, Lenin!’s narrative and cinematic strategies position the viewer as simultaneously sympathetic and critical, constructing the female protagonist as the site of contradiction between real existing socialism and the utopian impulse at its heart. (JC)


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pp. 100-126
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