Reviews - Cherry Blossoms
Reviewed By John Stakes
Dorrie’s film intertwined big themes surrounding the meaning and transient nature of life with relationship problems within the family and the power of spiritualism and nature to heal. In less than her totally skilled hands such an exercise could have produced a mawkish, sentimental, pretentious and rather silly film. In the event she had crafted a true work of art but one with which we could all identify as she exposed the frailty and fallibility of the human condition.
Her film changed direction half way through. Up to this point we had followed Bavarian couple Rudi ( an O’Horten type of man approaching retirement as head of a waste management department ), and his wife Trudi on a journey to visit two of their three grown up children now living in Berlin. Rudi had been reluctant to travel anywhere but Trudi had learned that her husband was terminally ill, and, keeping the news to herself, had resolved to coax him from the routine comfort of his rural home to see his family and have a short holiday.
During several uncomfortable but skilfully realised scenes the chasm in the relationships between these parents and their children was painfully exposed; so also was the gulf between Rudi and Trudi caused by the regimentation of Rudi’s lifestyle which had stifled Trudi’s creative yearnings. She had when young trained as a Japanese butoh dancer and longed to visit Japan where their other son Karl was now living. Rudi appears to have no creative talents and no desire to see the world.
Trudi’s sudden death in her sleep exposes Rudi’s guilt and loneliness as his family show no inclination to look after him. To atone for his sense of guilt Rudi embarks on a pilgrimage to Tokyo to fulfil Trudi’s wishes taking all his money and Trudi’s clothes with him. There he finds Karl no more willing (or able) to look after him than his siblings and soon Rudi is wandering the streets of a most unappealing Tokyo in search of Trudi’s dream comforted by wearing Trudi’s clothes under his coat.
Fortunately fate intervenes in the form of Yu, a streetwise teenage butoh dancer whose mother died a year earlier. They meet in one of Tokyo’s parks at Hanami the time of the cherry blossom. The tree’s beauty when in blossom is a metaphor for how our transient lives should be lived and enjoyed. Yu befriends and teaches him the basics and significance of the dance and how she feels able to communicate with her mother. Yu agrees to accompany Rudi to visit Mount Fuji which, when it finally reveals itself, provides the perfect awe-inspiring backdrop to Rudi’s own death and spiritual reunification with Trudi . Rudi has ensured that Yu receives the rest of his estate and the lack of understanding between Rudi’s children and their parents is once again demonstrated by their collective failure to understand anything of his conduct in Japan.
Dorrie coaxed pinpoint performances from all the cast particularly Elmar Wepper as Rudi. His ability to convey a full range of emotions whilst retaining a fixed wearily resigned gaze and speaking in largely monosyllabic terms was a master class of restrained screen acting which earned him the German equivalent of an Oscar at their 2008 Film Festival. Dorrie’s confident approach ensured that her exploration of the messy realism of human relationships did not jar against her evocation of the spiritual mindset, so we were able to identify and empathise with Rudi’s quest to understand more about his wife without calling into question any aspect of his behaviour. Dorrie’s aim to draw attention to the “slender sadness of the human condition” was beautifully realised.
“Cherry Blossoms” was greatly appreciated by another large audience and proved to be one of the most popular films of the current season
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