Phoenix is not exactly light fare. It’s got the biggies: disfiguring burns, spousal betrayal, oh and the Holocaust. Here’s the obligatory plot summary, which says that in more words and nowhere near as much spunk:
A concentration-camp survivor (Nina Hoss) searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband who might have betrayed her to the Nazis, in this gripping drama from leading German filmmaker Christian Petzold (Jerichow, Barbara). Petzold returns with another story of a fiercely determined woman — and the deeply divided society to which she belongs — caught between a tragic past and an uncertain future.
Emerging from a concentration camp at the end of World War II, Nelly Lenz (played by the formidable Nina Hoss, Petzold’s regular star) undergoes significant reconstructive surgery to repair a serious facial injury caused by a bullet wound. Nelly wants everything to be exactly the way it was before the war — including her appearance — but it isn’t. Presumed dead by her friends and relatives, fixated on the memories of her former life and unable to accept the shattered reality before her, Nelly returns to Berlin to fulfill the dream that sustained her throughout her imprisonment: reuniting with her husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld, Hoss’s co-star in Barbara). But even as she scours the ravaged city to find him, she is haunted by terrible, whispered rumours: that it was Johnny himself who betrayed her to the Nazis.
Just to make sure we’re clear: not a romantic comedy.
Here’s the trailer:
The film has just opened at the Toronto film festival, which strangely has no films about supernaturally large invincible Eskimo death god polar bears because apparently all the Canadians are working together to weave the lies of this cover up. But seriously, Phoenix is getting universally fantastic reviews, the sort that guarantee that it will get some awards, no one will see it, and you’ll keep meaning to see it but no matter how many times we put it on our current iteration of Best Films Streaming on Netflix you’re just going to start watching Archer from the beginning all over again.
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