It’s an unseasonably cold late-May evening in Berlin and I’m sitting under a blanket in an outdoor cinema. The locals are taking deckchairs from a pile and attempting to set them up near the front. No one knows how they work. Fingers are trapped; chairs collapse. It’s like pre-feature performance art just for my entertainment.
Grüße aus Fukushima (Greetings From Fukushima) picked up a few awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, as well as being nominated for a couple at the German Film Awards 2016 . Directed by Doris Dorrie (Cherry Blossoms, 2008), with a small cast including Kaori Momoi (Memoirs of a Geisha, 2005) and Rosalie Thomass. The film is predominantly in English though chunks are in German and a little Japanese too. The screening had only German subtitles, so I missed out on the non-English dialogue, but this was no real issue, as the screenplay was strong and the actors skilled enough for their story to speak volumes.
Marie’s character, along with the rhythm and aesthetic of the film led me to conclude that it is an unintended sister film to Frances Ha (2012) (and by extension, Mistress America, 2015). It is about a young woman searching for a meaningful existence and stepping out of her comfort zone, although Thomass is more than simply another Greta Gerwig. Her acting packs a punch, and where Gerwig leans towards awkwardness, Thomass has an aggression. It is accompanied by both tears and laughter, and Dorrie is right to spin humour in with tragedy. However, the film’s supernatural element was not so strong, becoming more theatre than cinema – Dorrie should know that sometimes things are more powerful when the audience can’t see them. Though ultimately the threads do pull together, including real footage from the disaster, itself haunting and uncomfortable.
It rained slightly during the screening, but not a single person was put off. That’s proof of a completely engaging movie. Grüße aus Fukushima could slip through the net for UK audiences, so don’t let it pass you by.
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