Cherry blossoms are traditionally known for their brevity. They bloom during one season and make audiences wait another year for the pleasure of their company. Capitalizing on this impermanence, German writer and director Doris Dorrie threads wistful longing through a placid and quietly lovely film.
Trudi (Hannelore Elsner) and Rudi (Elmar Wepper) live a homey existence in a small German town. Upon learning her husband has an incurable illness with no symptoms (an improbable but necessary premise to swallow), Trudi decides to withhold the diagnosis. Instead she suggests visiting the children in Berlin, who are more put out than excited to take in their elderly parents.
The tension Dorrie allows to accumulate functions as a puncture wound. It’s the polite detachedness of their kids that grates most, especially in light of Rudi’s disease, and the camera’s unrelenting focus forces an awkwardness that’s effective in its disquietude.
Left alone after Trudi’s sudden death on the trip, Rudi ventures to Japan in search of Mt. Fuji, his wife’s last wish. The film’s tonal shift is contained within long, slow shots that highlight a series of binaries. Slowly drifting cherry blossoms contrast with the seeming intractability of the landscape; bucolic Bavarian fields offset the dizzying exhilaration of Tokyo’s neon. But it’s the juxtaposition of man and mountain that is perhaps most striking. Huddled before Mt. Fuji and swaddled in Trudi’s woolen skirt, Rudi embodies the film’s dual and perhaps incompatible purposes: experiencing grief while fulfilling last dreams.
If there’s one flaw, it’s Dorrie’s tendency to overstate. With a running time of just over two hours, the film could shed the slow scenes that detract from the crispness of its message. Similarly, overattention to detail, such as the flies that signify ephemerality, strips the symbols of their softness.
Ultimately, though, the cherry blossoms exhibit the flimsy patterns that mimic human interactions — fleeting, to be sure, but never without meaning.
Cherry Blossoms Director: Doris Dorrie Starring: Hannelore Elsner, Elmar Wepper 3.5 stars No rating, 127 min.