Opening 29 Sep 2016
Once again, it’s post World War I and both the French and the Germans are licking their wounds and overcoming reluctance to reach out to each other. Frantz, of the title, was a German soldier who died in France. His fiancée Anna (Beer) maintains close contact to his parents, Magda and Hans, a local physician, who would have been her parents-in-law had Frantz survived. She visits Frantz’s grave regularly. Soon she shares these cemetery visits with a mysterious man, namely Adrien (Niney) from France, a close friend of Frantz (an unusual friendship between wartime enemies). Slowly, Adrien is adopted into Frantz’s family circle, kind of a substitute son, although the initial reaction was rejection: “Every Frenchman is the murderer of my son,” said Hans. Adrien even plays the violin as Frantz once did. He takes Anna into his confidence and she travels to France.
French director Francois Ozon has long made a name for himself, so that any film of his must be considered seriously. Here, Ozon was especially interested in the French-German connection. He uses black and white, as well as color filming, to emphasize flashbacks. He and his actors spoke both French and German during filming. The actors especially praised their director for the fact that he was also the cameraman – a rare occasion in filming. The small German town of Quedlingburg proved once again that it is a perfect site for historical films, as well as Wernigerode and the Görlitz cemetery. Film critics have been forewarned not to reveal the ending, and I must admit I often asked myself, “Where is this film going?” Is it all right if I mention the 19th century painter Manet, whose exhibit just ended in the Hamburg art museum?
This premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and Paula Beer von “best new actress” for her role as Anna at the Venice Film Festival 2016. (Becky Tan)