Epiphany in the shadow of Mount Fuji
by Bénédicte Prot
Journalists had tears in their eyes yesterday following the screening of Doris Dörrie's German competition film Cherry Blossoms - Hanami [+see also:
film profile], whose title recalls the brief period when the cherry trees flower in Japan, thus evoking the fleeting and the ephemeral. In Dörrie's film, it is also a memento mori, because here she explores grief and the acceptance of death.
In the first part of the film we discover the daily existence of an old Bavarian couple, Rudi (Elmar Wepper) and Trudi (Hannelore Elsner), a routine that the wife would like to change and enliven, as she is the only one who knows that her husband is suffering from a terminal illness.
But her luminous presence and her dreams of Japanese dancing and Mount Fuji clash with the prosaicness of their family life – their children, who are now adults, never have the time to appreciate what the superb cinematography (alternating between magnificent landscapes and delightful details) shows us. Then Trudi dies, leaving behind a distraught Rudi.
He decides to travel to Japan to reconnect with his wife via Japanese culture (and enable her to discover it for herself by carrying her clothes with him, underneath his coat). He ends up finding serenity in his grief by taking part in the Butho dance, which involves becoming one with the dead, enabling him to become (T)Rudi.
At the press conference, the film's cast (which also includes Nadja Uhl and German Shooting Star 2007 Maximilian Brückner) were greeted by generous applause. They all agreed that their sensitive performances emerged from a form of tacit understanding created by Dörrie, which was all the more natural as the director didn't ask them to rehearse their roles.
Dörrie further explained that the modest filming conditions (she herself dyed Elsner's hair grey every day) gave the actors an additional spontaneity that chimed well with the concept of Butho. After three films and twenty or so trips to Japan, she has in fact managed to invest a very German story with images inspired by a very Japanese lyricism.
Cherry Blossoms - Hanami, which won two Bavarian Film Awards in 2007 (for its production company Olga Film and for actor Wepper) is being sold by Bavaria Film International.
(Translated from French)
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