Cherry Blossoms review

Cherry Blossoms is the title of the North American release of the 2008 German film Kirschblüten – Hanami directed by Doris Dörrie.

The film is set in Germany and Japan and it is about overcoming the distance between people—at one end of the scale, between people who should know each other well but don’t, or don’t get along, and at the other between people of distant cultures who perhaps have much in common after all. In Germany, a woman’s husband is diagnosed with an illness that leaves him little time to live, so she tries to bring him together with the fractured family of grown children and fails. Then unexpectedly she dies first. He realizes that he has misunderstood and undervalued his wife, who sacrificed her own interests for him, and tries to understand who she was. He follows her interest in butoh dance to Japan, where one of their sons also lives. After stumbling through the unfamiliar culture for a time he in the end makes a connection.

The film is dense with symbolism at all scales, from individual images to the dramatic structure. Every picture on the walls has a specific role to play. I love that part.

Kirschblüten means cherry blossoms, but hanami means flower viewing, going to see the cherry blossoms, an important cultural event in Japan with a set of associated customs. That’s one of the symbolic juxtapositions, comparing static and active cultural takes on the same thing.

The movie has dialog in three languages and I wanted to watch it without subtitles for the sheer fun of being able to understand a movie in three languages, but unfortunately the DVD is hard-subbed. It is not possible to turn off the subtitles. What idiot DVD editor would do such a thing?

Original version, April 2011.
Extended and added here April 2013.