Rewatching this film probably 15 years later, it is less novel but deeper than the first time watching it.
Watching as the idealism and hope of socialism is quickly crushed by the brutality, cold grey and steel, and staidness of a society in which the group, the party, supersedes the individual shows how the youth in this time must have watched with hope.
But not all is as it seems when the empty promises of consumer capitalism replace the solidarism and collective meaning that was lost. As the Germany’s collide, and as Lara the Soviet in the GDR becomes Lara the Russian in Germany, as domestic factory produced goods are exchanged for cheap imports and new banknotes, relationships irrevocably shift.
It is watching the slow breakdown of the GDR, the Soviet Union, and new states and peoples were born out of the ashes.
What is tragic is that the death of Christiane, and of the state were the death of possibility that the state could become its idealized form, could live up to and manifest the aspirations we all have for our societies and the institutions that govern them.
But what this means is that the idealism died with her, with the GDR, and with the perishing of states built on ideas bigger than the moment in which we now stand. A state built for one, or a state built for all, totalitarian dictatorships and democracies alike, their focus is on the present and the demands of those empowered. When a state is built off a larger idea though, it can transcend the immediate in striving to achieve something greater than any individual human, or even nation could achieve on its own.
Whether or not this is right, or possible, idealism has long since given way to the crude cynicism that leads us to tolerate graft and hypocrisy, stagnation and squalor, until it reaches our doorstep.
Perhaps this is why many in Russia yearn for the imperfect world of the past, one with less “freedom” but with camaraderie, order, and meaning, even with its intractable flaws.