Iris Hanika’s The Essential tells the story of Hans Frambach, a German archivist obsessed with his country’s Nazi past for as long as he can remember. His life’s work has been to catalogue and process the »remembrances« of Holocaust survivors’ at the German Bureau of Past Management, a task so heartbreaking and all-consuming that Hans can no longer imagine life without misery—for him, it is »the essential« thing. Yet, Hans has begun to question the necessity of his unhappiness. When his best and only friend Graziela ends a tumultuous love affair, he begins to draw a line between his guilt over a deeply painful, inherited history and his own unhappiness. What is really essential to him, and what is the true value of the past? Taking place in vibrant contemporary Berlin, The Essential explores the effects of the Nazi past on two middle-aged Germans, shining an ironic, humorous light on life in Germany right now and posing a critical question: in a country that carries few traces of its National Socialist past, how do we memorialize tragedy?