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Set in Germany and France in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, (1914-1918), Frantz recalls the mourning period that follows great national tragedies as seen through the eyes of the war s lost generation : Anna (21 year-old Paula Beer in a breakthrough performance), a bereft young German woman whose fiancé, Frantz, was killed during trench warfare, and Adrien (Pierre Niney, Yves Saint Laurent), a French veteran of the war who shows up mysteriously in her town, placing flowers on Frantz s grave. Adrien's presence is met with resistance by the small community still reeling from Germany s defeat, yet Anna gradually gets closer to the handsome and melancholy young man, as she learns of his deep friendship with Frantz, conjured up in evocative flashbacks. What follows is a surprising exploration of how Ozon's characters wrestle with their conflicting feelings - survivor s guilt, anger at one s losses, the overriding desire for happiness despite everything that has come before, and the longing for sexual, romantic and familial attachments. Ozon drew his inspiration from Ernst Lubitsch s 1932 drama Broken Lullaby, with stunning visual references to painter Caspar David Friedrich.
Exquisite and haunting...one of the talented director Francois Ozon's very best films. --Dennis Dermody, Paper
NYT Critics' Pick. Lyrically seductive. --Stephen Holden, The New York Times
Astonishingly beautiful and inquisitive. It is impossible to deny the sheer narrative sophistication. --Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Top customer reviews
The story is a tragic one. Set in Germany and France just after the end of World War I, “Frantz” we learn early on is the name of a German soldier who has died in the war. He was engaged to Anna (Paula Beer) who is now living with his parents. One day a Frenchman (Pierre Niney) shows up and visits Frantz’ grave although sadly he has been buried somewhere else with others whose bodies were not returned to their homelands.
Beer and Niney, along with the others actors, give nuanced, sensitive performances. (And it doesn’t hurt the film that both of them are easy on the eyes.) Although we figure out fairly soon some of what has happened, there are certainly enough twists in the plot to keep your attention.
The message is clear but sad: wars are fought by the young. But of course they are not the only victims. There also wives and husbands and children, parents and grandparents who also bear the sorrow of war. (In a particularly poignant scene Frantz’ physician father reminds his friends who also have sent sons to war that they sent them off to die.) The film also has something to say about hope and certainly love. It illustrates perfectly the line from W. B. Yeats’ haunting poem “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death”: “Those that I fight I do not hate.”
I left the theatre wishing that more movies of this caliber were being made.
While the film begins with overwhelming sadness, where the characters see their lives altered beyond what they can bear, hope and reconciliation gradually change the lives of Hoffmeister family, Anna and Pierre Rivoire. In the end, Anna expresses the change she has undergone by saying she wants to live rather than holding to the idea her life ended with the death of Frantz. One scene that was particularly poignant takes place in a café where several men of the village where the Hoffmeister’s live recount the sons that they lost during the war; none of them had been spared. The scene brings to bear the loss and shock loss that we are numbed about when reading that, for example, a million men died during the battle of the Somme.
I found Frantz utterly moving and very engaging. It is the kind of film that I would like to experience more than once.
But all is not what it seems and this becomes a story of not one but two odyssey’s as the storie(s) unfold along twist and turns. The film is shot in monochrome and colour. When it is black and white it is where things are bleak as if all the colour has drained from the world and then when love and hope appear so does the radiant colours. A simple enough device but done with subtle intensity an a film that takes its cinematography, rightfully, seriously.
The acting is all sublime with Piere Niney (‘Yves St. Laurent’) as the Frenchman – Adrien Rivoire – being perfectly cast balancing the fragility and immediacy of the role perfectly. Paula Beer as Anna really grows into her role too, which is necessary from the plots development and from the actual character development and is prefect also. All supporting actors are just spot on. The film also shies away from the melodrama that is often associated with extremes of emotion and take the everyday and makes it important.
This is one of those films that comes along all too seldom. It is in French and German with good subtitles. Yes it can be called ‘Arthouse’ but it is also a simple but powerful story told with great care and skill and is a film that will reward you for sticking with it to the end – easily recommended.
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