Screening as part of the German Film Festival (that finishes this week in Melbourne), Doris Dörrie writes and directs this homage to the Alain Resnais film Hiroshima Mon Amour and a love letter to the people of Fukushima. Shot in black and white, this begins as a slight tale of a German girl, Marie (Rosalie Thomass), trying to escape her memories amongst those cast adrift in the wastelands of Fukushima, two years after the earthquake and nuclear disaster.
Taking a job as a clown, Marie tries to bring laughter to the elderly people left in temporary settlements outside the radioactive zone. She has no joy in her though and can’t seem to find a way out of her own grief, even amongst those who have lost everything. One woman, Satomi (Kaori Momoi), asks her to take her to her ruined house and there the two women forge a bond.
I wasn’t sure about this film at the start; maybe it was the camerawork, the occasionally obtrusive musical score or the seeming shallowness and naivety of Marie. It hooked me in though as the pace slowed with the methodical cleaning of the house, the meticulous mindfulness of serving tea. On the surface this film seems to be about grief and loss but it is really about forgiveness, how we can let down those we love but be there for strangers. For both women, the struggle is to let go of the memories that shame them.
There are some clunky moments but the interaction between the two leads is at times mesmerising and the ending is genuinely moving. There is a feeling of documentary at certain points and this reminds us of the very present reality of the faces we are seeing.
Bechdel test – pass