The Bauer family takes on a household help. This young woman, Fiona, is thrown into the middle of the family of five with only a few basic instructions. The inhabitants lead their own lives; they do not take much notice of each other and they don’t care how the outside world looks at them.
Fiona prepares for each new day without asking questions and without commenting. Uneasy meals, tragic loneliness and unsuitable behaviour do not seem to put her off balance. No one in the house notices that Fiona herself is wrestling with issues.
Totem is set in the Ruhr district, but time, place and context are not particularly relevant in this disturbing, soberly filmed drama. The behaviour, the choices and everyday routines of the protagonists are not revealed to Fiona nor to the viewers. Completely normal moments are juxtaposed with absurdist scenes; the tame rabbits in the garden are just as matter-of-fact as the cherished baby dolls in the nursery.