(Kirschblüten - Hanami) 

Dir. Doris Dorrie. Germany. 2008

Talking Pictures alias







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“The worst walls are the ones you put there -- you build yourself. Those are the high ones, the thick ones, the ones with no doors.” - Ursula LeGuin

In Japan, cherry blossoms are symbolic of the transient nature of life, requiring only one week to bloom and then fall. In Cherry Blossoms, the Ozu-like film by director Doris Dorrie, a practicing Zen Buddhist, is a rare film about a subject that Hollywood usually avoids, aging and death. Despite a few one-dimensional characterizations, it is a charming and often moving work that has a feeling for the silences, the places within us that we have suppressed, but which are always just beneath the surface. A long-time married couple Rudi Angermeier (Elmar Wepper) and his wife Trudi (Hannelore Elsner), live in a small German town. Rudi is tied to a routine.

Each day, he takes the same train to his job as a civil servant, eats a sandwich and an apple at the same hour, and rarely attempts anything new or adventurous. On the other hand, Trudi has never stopped dreaming, longing to go to Japan to become a Butoh dancer. When Rudi is diagnosed with a terminal illness, Trudi is unable to bring herself to tell Rudi the truth. She instead suggests that it would be a good time for them to travel to Berlin to see their children, Klaus (Felix Eitner) who is married with two children, and their lesbian daughter Karolin (Birgit Minichmayr) who lives with her partner Franzi (Nadja Uhl). Things do not go well, however.

Mirroring the clash of generations in Ozu's Tokyo Story, the children are indifferent, making it clear that they do not have time to spend with their parents and seeming to regard their visit as an intrusion. Only Franzi makes the parents feel as if they are appreciated, taking them on sightseeing trips around the city. Shockingly, Trudi dies suddenly during a visit to the beach near the Baltic Sea, and a confused and lonely Rudi decides to visit their youngest son Karl (Maximilian Brueckner) in Tokyo, seeking to be close to his wife in spirit by fulfilling her dream of going to Japan.

He arrives during the time of the cherry blossoms where the view of the white Sakura blossoms surrounded by views of mountains and water is stunning. It is here that each spring, in the ritual known as Hanami, Japanese sit under the blossoming trees to celebrate the lives of those close to them who have passed away. Unfortunately, the journey is marred by Karl's coldness towards his father who, he believes, has had little interest in his life. Feeling sad and rejected, in the park one day, Rudi meets Yu (Aya Irizuki), an eighteen-year-old homeless street artist performing Butoh, a dance expressing intense emotions through slow, controlled, and sometimes distorted movements, often performed in white body makeup and painted face.

Drawn to each other, their innocent communion leads them to Mount Fuji - Rudi's wife's dream. As Rudi symbolically becomes both himself and his wife, they celebrate and mourn their own love and loss. Cherry Blossoms suggests that we often prevent our true self from fully expressing itself, either to ourselves or each other, “to blossom like the cherry tree." For Rudi, after a lifetime of suppression, the day came, as author Anais Nin put it, “when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”


Howard Schumann

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