on saturday I attended a screening of the German film “Fukushima, mon amour” (Grüße aus Fukushima, 2016). It was part of the opening reception for the German Film Festival in Roppongi Hills and therefore many special guests were attending, too.
Not all of them took part in “Fukushima, mon amour”, but other German movies shown at the festival, like “The Diary of Anne Frank” (Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank, 2016) or “24 Weeks” (24 Wochen, 2016). All these movies had already premiered in Germany eralier this year.
Dorris Dörrie presented her movie about the situation in the mostly evacuated area in Fukushima together with one of the two leading actresses, Momoi Kaori, and composer Ulrike Haage.
“Fukushima, mon amour” tells the story of a German girl, Marie, that had lost her footing and comes to Japan to make up for it by volunteering for the organisation “Clowns without Borders”. She soon has to realise, however, that she is not able to relieve the elderly people of Fukushima of their past experiences through humour, mainly because she herself struggles with her own past. She turns angry, frustrated and falls back into self-doubt.
Satomi is the “last geisha of Fukushima”, as she calls herself. She makes Marie drive her into the abandoned area and starts – to Marie’s astonishment – to move her belongings into her old, destroyed house. Marie, realising eventually she can’t stop Satomi, decides to help her and moves in with the old lady.
These both women encounter rather comical cultural barriers together and bond over their respective self-hatred for things they had done and can’t forgive themselves. These “ghosts” of their past are embodied by Satomis last apprentice, Yuki, who starts haunting both women. Eventually they have to address their issues and find a way to finally forgive themselves.
From a German point of view, “Fukushima, mon amour” is certainly not a bad movie. It touches sensitive topics, gives spotlight to important issues and highlights also the positive aspects of life in a manner that made me cry and smile in turns or at the same time.
It is however crammed with cliches: A girl from Europe with a rather first-world-problem encounters, out of all possible professions Japan has to offer, a geisha. Also, the geisha teaches the foreigner aspects of the tea ceremony, while the foreigner is just clumsy and not sensitive to Japanese culture. The foreigner is also angry and has regulary outbursts, that make her as a character in the presence of the quiet Japanese characters just very dislikable.
Furthermore, the question of suicide and whether it could be an answer to their guilt is a recurring theme in the movie and it ends with the foreigner teaching the Japanese not to hang herself, because life is a bliss.
That last point was definitely the aspect I personally disliked the most.
So, I can very well imagine, that a Japanese person could feel offended by the depiction of some aspects of Japan in this movie. I personally didn’t like, how the German character was cussing and shouting all the time – but at least there was another likable character, Moshe, a clown, who was very calm and enjoyable. However, the only other Japanese character with more screentime was a ghost…
Have some of you guys seen this movie? What is your opinion on it?
Let’s discuss this 😉