The Bloom of Yesterday
German Film Week 2017

The Bloom of Yesterday © Edith Held

Tokyo International Film Festival 2016; Moscow Jewish Film Festival 2016.

„…an intelligent and touching comedy about fighting oblivion…“ BR Kino Kino

Totila Blumen is a Holocaust researcher. As such, he has no sense of fun. This applies in a general sense and specifically when his colleagues try to turn an Auschwitz conference into a corporate-sponsored media event. In the process, they trample all over the memory of the recently deceased Professor Norkus – whom Totila revered. On top of all this, Totila is lumped with an intern: a very young and irritating French student named Zazie. As she follows Totila like a puppy and has a fling with his boss, the otherwise ser ious and measured academic becomes a nervous wreck. But it’s no good moaning about it – certainly not to his stressed wife, who demands that he gripe less and learn to accept what his life has to offer. And so Totila ploughs on with his work, aided by the overwrought, eccentric Zazie. She, however, appears to have an agenda of her own – and it’s closely related to Totila’s background and well-guarded family secret.

Source: German Films Service GmbH


Richard Bolisay

The Bloom of Yesterday has an ingenious storyline. Totila (Lars Eidinger), a Holocaust researcher and writer, meets his new intern, Zazie (Adèle Haenel), who will work with him for an upcoming Auschwitz convention. Totila is no nice guy: he is humorless, insensitive, manic, and inconsiderate – a misanthrope who can easily turn violent with little provocation. Zazie, on the other hand, is sweet and charming, a student seemingly full of eagerness and zest for life, sticking with Totila despite his nastiness and outbursts. As the two spend more time together, they get comfortable with one another’s craziness, and a romantic and sexual attraction between them is hard to ignore. But nothing is easy about love: eventually the film reveals their connection – and with a terribly unfortunate link from the past, Totila and Zazie try to move forward and make do with what they have, but their past and their present seem impossible to be reconciled.

It is right to label The Bloom of Yesterday a tragicomedy. The tragedy is clear: almost any film tackling the subject of the Holocaust with respect will inevitably be heavy, serious, and emotionally taxing, and rightly so. But the comedy is quite a surprise: the humor explodes in different places – sometimes irreverent, sometimes over the top – and this comic quality that crosses the line between violence and absurdity makes for a tremendously compelling viewing experience. The writer and director Chris Haus is not only banking on the clever storyline to push the drama; he poses uncomfortable questions about the Holocaust that display the film’s maturity and complexity, sharing with his two lead characters this level of madness needed to be able to talk about the necessary nightmares of one of history’s most cruel times. Although The Bloom of Yesterday occasionally suffers from a requirement to be commercially pleasing, resorting at times to forced expositions and ending on such a contrived note that reduces its ambition, the many good things working for it, the acting and directing in particular, are undeniable.

Philbert Dy

The Bloom of Yesterday is about the Holocaust, but it looks at through the lens of the current generation of Germans, who are far enough removed from the tragedy to not really know how they’re supposed to be dealing with it. The main character Toto (Lars Eidinger) is a misanthropic academic who works for a Holocaust museum. He is deeply invested in the success of an upcoming conference, and got into a fight with another scholar over the possible commercialization of the tragedy. He is also, as it turns, a descendant of a war criminal. Already on the edge, his life is made a little more complicated by the arrival of Zazie (Adele Haenel), an intern who also happens to be the granddaughter of Holocaust victims.
The film takes on some of the form of an offbeat romantic comedy, except one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the world hangs over the heads of the characters. It can get touchy at times, the movie running headlong into narrative territory that yields unanswerable questions about historical complicity and generational atonement. The result is interesting, if a little uneven. The comedy doesn’t always mix well with the drama inherent to the situations the characters face. Sometimes, it’s an interesting counterpoint that serves to highlight the futility and complexity of future generations being faced with the sins of their ancestors. Other times, it can make the film feel dismissive and a little trite.
But overall, the film is pretty clever in how it goes about things. Its main approach to the subject seems to be an acknowledgment that nobody really knows how people are supposed to be dealing with this stuff in present day, that no single approach will ever be enough to properly address the enormity of the subject. And it is in that discomfort that the film thrives. In exploring how the characters don’t really know what they’re supposed to be doing, it advocates for a thoughtfulness that is rather endearing. Just as these characters fumble with romance, they fumble with their own feelings over a tragic history. Because things are never simple, and that’s a worthy thought.