Frantz

 

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Two victims of the First World War are united by the death of an intimate in François Ozon's most assured and humane work to date.

    Frantz

Close to the enemy: Paula Beer and Pierre Niney

 

If ever a film were more pertinent to our times, it is François Ozon's Frantz. Set in Germany in the aftermath of the First World War, Ozon’s story of both acceptance and discrimination –inspired by Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 drama Broken Lullaby – shows a country bruised, humiliated and fiercely resentful of its neighbour, France. In the sleepy medieval town of Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt, the beautiful Anna visits the grave of her fiancé Frantz Hoffmeister, a violinist who was killed in the battle of Verdun. She is surprised, then, to find red roses placed there by an unknown hand. After making enquiries, she discovers that the floral donor is a Frenchman, who is staying in town. Shortly afterwards, the very same gentleman pays a visit to Anna’s house, where she lives with her fiancé’s father, the town doctor. However, Dr Hoffmeister refuses to talk to the visitor, claiming that “every Frenchman is my son’s murderer.”

 

François Ozon, one of the great auteurs of contemporary French cinema, here delivers perhaps his finest film to date, a magnificent period romance that is at once enigmatic, mischievous and profoundly moving. With its resplendent black-and-white photography and meticulous production design, it is a constant joy to the eye, while the masterly performance of the German actress Paula Beer as Anna dictates the emotional temperature. Furthermore, the dialogue, editing and music are all pitch perfect. Of course, the wounds of war run very deep indeed, but we as a species must never let it undermine our humanity.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Pierre Niney, Paula Bear, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Johann von Bülow, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair, Alice de Lencquesaing.

 

Dir François Ozon, Pro Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Stefan Arndt and Uwe Schott, Screenplay François Ozon and Philippe Piazzo, Ph Pascal Marti, Pro Des Michel Barthélémy, Ed Laure Gardette, Music Philippe Rombi, Costumes Pascaline Chavanne.

 

Mandarin Films/X-Filme Creative Pool/Mars Films/France 2 Cinéma/ France Télévisions/Canal+/Ciné+/ Sofica Manon 6/Deutscher Filmförderfonds-Artificial Eye.

114 mins. France/Germany. 2016. Rel: 12 May 2017. Cert. 12A.