NZIFF Diary Day 2: PHOENIX – Christian Petzold

phoenix Here’s an interesting one because it’s clearly brilliant and yet I was just not in the right frame of mind to watch it. So, definitely one to return to. Nevertheless, I wanted to go and see this a) Because I haven’t seen any German stuff for a good while and b) Because, having read a review and found out what the plot of the movie was and thought; “Ooh blimey. I’d quite like to see that.” (Note full stop instead of rather more excitable exclamation mark). So, the story thus far – FADE IN. And from there, it just gets better. In the aftermath of WWII, Jewish woman Nelly Lenz has her face surgically reconstructed after hideous torture in a concentration camp. Whilst recuperating, her aim is to get back with her successful pianist husband, Johnny and make a move to the newly established Palestine. However, Nelly’s best friend, Lene, tells her that Johnny is the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Obsessed with seeing him again, she tracks him down to a club where he now works, collecting glasses. He, so convinced that Nelly is dead, doesn’t recognise her but sees that she looks similar enough to his deceased wife that he can use her to scam her family out of an inheritance. Thus, Nelly has to pretend to be her pre-war self for her unwitting spouse. The brilliance of this set-up (honestly, the best I’d heard in years) is that you have a protagonist who from the outset is fragile both psychologically and physically having come out the other side of the Final Solution. It shows us (like with Roberto Rossellini’s ‘Germany Year Zero’) that conflict, abuse and retribution still carry on in the everyday lives of ordinary people even when the guns have stopped. Further to that, however, is Nelly’s breaking down as a person; caught between her desire to be with the man she loved before the war and in doing so, almost literally return to her previous life and seeing Johnny for who he really is and moving on with her life. But this was all wasted on me as I was drifting in and out because I was just not in the right frame of mind for it. Maybe it was too early in the day. It was midday and I haven’t seen a film at the cinema that early for bloody ages. I could see that there was a great film going on in front of me and yet the brain was not clicking into gear at any stage. So, I’m sure on the second viewing that I will undoubtedly give it, I will see it for the film that it is. Until then, all I can say is.. . yeah, I’m sure it was good. I’m not being deliberately flippant at all because it was plain to see that great work was being shown onscreen (in particular the acting and the no-fucking-about approach to storytelling) but I’d just chosen the wrong time of day to turn up. Oh well.

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One thought on “NZIFF Diary Day 2: PHOENIX – Christian Petzold

  1. Pingback: NZIFF Diary Day 7: INHERENT VICE – Paul Thomas Anderson | Reading Films

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