|PHOENIX (director: Christian Petzold; screenwriters: Harun Farocki/based on the novel “Le Retour des Cendres” by Hubert Monteilhet; cinematographer: Hans Fromm; editor: Bettina Böhler; music: Stefan Will; cast: Nina Hoss (Nelly Lenz), Ronald Zehrfeld (Johnny Lenz), Nina Kunzendorf (Lene Winter); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Florian Koerner von Gustorf/ Michael Weber; PALGood! Movies; 2014-Germany-in German with English-my version was dubbed in English subtitles)|
stunning and painful German
concentration camp survivor drama."
by Dennis Schwartz
stunning and painful German
concentration camp survivor drama that's
sensitively directed by Christian Petzold
("Yella"/"Ghosts"/"Jerichow"), who is associated
with the Berlin School. It's based on
the French novel “Le Retour des Cendres” by Hubert
Monteilhet. Writers Petzold and Harun
Farocki finely adapt it to the screen
with the power of Hitchcock's Vertigo, only with
added-on moralistic conundrums, and as an exhausting
postwar parable of the attempt to overcome
the final days of the war, Nelly Lenz (Nina
Hoss), a Jewish Auschwitz
camp survivor, from a wealthy Berlin
family, is left disfigured after she is
shot in the face and left for dead by the Nazis.
Returning in the summer of 1945 to occupied Berlin,
she reunites with her Jewish friend, a haunted
survivor of the Holocaust, Lene (Nina
Kunzendorf). She encourages Nelly to prepare for a
new life in Israel, as both women are anxious about
living in Germany. Nelly's entire family
perished, which adds to her sorrows. To get back on
her feet, Nelly uses her inheritance money to get facial
reconstruction surgery. Now almost unrecognizable,
the distraught woman, a night-club singer, searches
ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband Johnny
(Ronald Zehrfeld), a low-life piano player who
probably betrayed her to the Gestapo. When she meets
Johnny, an unsympathetic survivalist, working in a
night-club in the American sector,, bussing
tables, he fails to recognize her but
notices she has similarities to his dead wife.
Johnny schemes to use those traits to collect his
dead wife's inheritance by having
the stranger, called Esther, pretend to be Nelly.
He thereby believes they can together work this
scam and split the loot. The psychologically
damaged Nelly goes along with his scheme because
she wants to be certain Johnny betrayed her and
for psychological reasons that perhaps only a camp
survivor might understand.
far-fetched plot (which seems implausible) works as an
emotionally-charged film noir, and provides us with a
numbing and unfulfilling conclusion. It's a
provocative, well-crafted and well-acted film, that
speaks the universal language of suffering and
fitfully tries to find answers about such things as
title is derived from the Berlin night-club called
Phoenix, where Nelly searches for and finds her slimey
husband and will learn of his betrayal.
REVIEWED ON 10/29/2015 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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