The Bloom of Yesterday
Feature Film | Chris Kraus | 2016
A renowned German Holocaust researcher, the grandson of a prominent Nazi war criminal, is struggling with his family history, his career and his hatred of people in general. At the height of his personal crisis, he encounters a passionate, manic French-Jewish with a Teutonic complex. Her remarkably frank and unconventional manner turns his professional and family life upside down and helps him finally break down the barriers he has built around his life. An impossible romantic comedy, in effect, a love story programmed to self-destruct.
DIRECTORS NOTE BY CHRIS KRAUS
In the beginning, there was just a vague idea: The grandchild of a victim and the grandchild of a perpetrator talk, laugh and sleep together – and, for a very long, very fleeting moment, everything’s fine. So it was hope that drove me to make this film: hope that the wounds inflicted on us by history and that continue to fester in the lives of the descendants, can be healed.
The idea of telling a story about the casualties of our German history, a story that also breaks open established patterns of remembrance, came to me in the archives of Berlin, Koblenz, Warsaw, Washington and, of course, Ludwigsburg (where the film is set). Over the course of many years, I used these archives to research my own family history. As I did so, I realized that, in many films about National Socialism, there’s something missing that’s important to me: the unresolved in the overly-resolved. In other words, the thing that lives on within families, the thing that’s denied and selfrighteous, the thing that’s past and that, though preserved by official commemoration, has been swept under the rug of family memory. I’m certain that the only way to respond to this phenomenon is with irreverence.
For this reason, THE BLOOM OF YESTERDAY is a study in levity, not gloom. It’s an ode to the disturbed and their disturbances, not a protest against the criminals and their crimes. It’s very much a comedy – about wounds and their origins.
We live in a time in which we must use all available means to stand up to right-wing lunacy – so why not use the means of anarchistic merriment? A few years ago, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor used them when he visited Auschwitz and Theresienstadt with his grandchildren and, with his cellphone, filmed himself performing a victory dance over the hell in which he was once to have been exterminated. Joyfully celebrating life in all its difficulty and pain, naively hoping for reconciliation, putting the nuts in their place and creating 'olitical beauty': Surely that’s not so crazy.
I want this film to throw open windows, to flood with light and air a topic that has preoccupied me for many years, but which, even as we perform its commemoration on such a grand scale, threatens to lose its urgency – and it remains as urgent as ever. Indeed, one thing must be clear: The film might sometimes be bitterly humorous (because its characters are sometimes bitterly humorous), but it never trivializes the Holocaust. THE BLOOM OF YESTERDAY paints this crime against humanity in a fitting shade of deepest black, allowing the people to be sketched in white just as I see them: as frightened, loving, absurd, nasty, hopeful and, very, very occasionally, trusting. That’s why I wanted something bright to emerge from this black-and-white scene: Because, even in its most horrific moments, life is painted in a full palette of colors.