Cherry Blossoms (2008)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

Original Title: Kirschblüten – Hanami

, 2008. , , , . Screenplay by Doris Dörrie. Cinematography by . Produced by , , , . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by , . Film Editing by , .

Doris Dorrie pays tribute to Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece Tokyo Story with a tale of an elderly couple that reflects and then investigates that wonderful film’s themes.

is excellent as Trudi, a German housewife in a country village whose husband Rudi’s love of his daily routine is at odds with her thirst for adventure. Their younger son Karl lives and works in Tokyo, Japan and, having always had an affinity for that culture, Trudi would love to visit him and see Mount Fuji, but her husband (played by ) insists that the mountains in Bavaria are just as picturesque and it’s not worth the trouble and expense.

When a medical examination reveals that Rudi is seriously ill, his doctors tell the news secretly to Trudi and suggest that she enjoy one last big trip with her husband, so she packs the two of them up and they head to Berlin to see two of their four children, the dutiful Klaus, who is married with children, and the rebellious and resentful Karolin, who lives with her partner Franzi. The children are happy to see them but, of course, are also put out by their parents’ visit, and Dorrie shares Ozu’s humane sympathy for the younger set by presenting their selfish reaction to their surprise guests as the understandable conflicts of people who have a great deal expected of them in their daily life and work.

Dorrie’s following Ozu’s plot, however, ends about an hour into this film (with Franzi ably filling in for Setsuko Hara’s Noriko as the non-relative who is also the most caring), after which she expands on Rudi’s experience and has him go on his journey towards understanding his wife, his family and his own existence in a much deeper way. Traveling to Tokyo, he shacks up with Karl in his tiny apartment and begins as a sightseer, eventually befriending a dancer in the park who helps welcome him into the culture so beloved by his wife and brings him to an understanding of a side of her that he never previously acknowledged.

Where Ozu’s film (and most of his films) examined the effect of time on the traditional family unit (starting a new one means breaking an old one), Dorrie takes a look at the destructive effect of patriarchal culture on family life, that a man who is taught to be an unemotional provider who leaves the nurturing to the little woman at home is not only reinforcing unnaturally limited gender roles, but is also missing out on many of life’s greatest pleasures.

Winsome performances from a terrific cast make for a very sympathetic drama, and help overcome the eyesore digital cinematography that has not aged well in the years since it was made, but were it to be trimmed by ten or fifteen minutes it would pack a stronger punch.

As a tribute to what is, for my money, the greatest film ever made, it’s an enjoyable and intelligent drama made by someone who truly understands the great work of art that she is responding to.

European Film Award Nomination: Best European Actor (Elmar Wepper)

Berlin Film Festival: In Competition

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