Phoenix (2014)

Phoenix (2014)

Phoenix is a German-English bilingual film directed by Christian Petzold, and tells of a woman’s story; a Jewish woman who has escaped a concentration camp, with a disfigured face for a parting present. So, does the movie really show us the horrors of the Holocaust?

The answer to that is, simply, no. Not overtly, anyway. The film is set in the aftermath of the Holocaust, during the American and Russian occupation of Germany. The woman with the disfigured face, Nelly Lenz, a singer, is brought back to her home in Berlin by her friend, Lene Winter. After a facial surgery, her face is transformed to the extent that even her husband, Johnny Lenz doesn’t recognize her during a chance encounter. But the more pressing matter was, how was it possible for Nelly to be captured? Winters suspects Nelly’s husband of informing the SS of her whereabouts, while Nelly herself is not so sure.

4935072_phoenix-2014-movie-trailer-2-betrayal_1d0816ec_m

     Her face says it all, all about the horrors of the Holocaust…

Winter’s desire is for Nelly to collect the money she has received as her inheritance from her family, and then accompany her to the Palestine, but Nelly wants to find her husband first. She does manage to find Johnny working at Phoenix, a nightclub. When events transpire so that Nelly is living with Johnny, who has no idea she is his wife, the plot tightens and twists, and Nelly herself is put in a position where she can see her husband’s true self, whether he has really betrayed her (or not). I won’t reveal any more of the story, but I promise it is worthwhile to watch it.

The plot is tight and self-contained, and has few, if any, flaws. The post-war Berlin is captured with great detail. The actors are brilliant; Nina Hoss as Nelly is amazing as a Holocaust survivor, and so is Nina Kunzendorf playing her friend, Lene Winter. Ronald Zehrfeld as Johnny, is great, and we’re always left guessing as to his involvement in Nelly’s capture. But the clear star of the film is still Nina Hoss, who carries Phoenix on her shoulders. Nina’s facial expressions as Nelly show more than enough evidence of having been a sufferer in the concentration camps.

Anyone who wants to watch a different take on post-WWII and Holocaust films will surely find their time well-spent after watching Phoenix. And even in general, this movie is a great watch, a piece of art on reel.

RATING : 8.4/10

PROS :
– lead actress is brilliant
– music
– plot
CONS :
– narrow target audience

 

 

DOWNFALL [DER UNTERGANG]

DOWNFALL [DER UNTERGANG]

Downfall is a 2004 German drama set in the timeline of the Second World War, specifically the end of it. The movie chronicles the final days of Adolf Hitler and those closest to him, Eva Braun, Himmler, Goebbels, the works.

The story starts off in mid-1942 with the appointment of Traudl Junge as Hitler’s secretary. The plot is conveyed to the viewer through the eyes of the young lady (she’s 22 at the time of appointment). It takes us through the tumultuous final ten days of war in Germany, with the Soviets pushed all the way up to Berlin. As was the case then, many were of the opinion that the war was lost, and that the Fuhrer should either retreat from Berlin to spare further loss of life and destruction of the capital, or failing that, should discuss terms of surrender with the Allies. And of course, neither of these courses is taken by Hitler, who instead chooses to fight the Allies to the bitter end. Upon hearing this announcement, most of his major officers begin to defect to the Allies, and those who are beyond any hope of pardon from the Allies, make preparations to sneak by the enemy unnoticed (read : Himmler).

The movie highlights the essence of the horrors of war in a no-holds-barred manner, and is especially good at capturing the Fuhrer’s emotional turmoil upon hearing of his officers’ defection. All this, viewed through the lens of Junge, makes the film a poignant watch, and for the first time I’ve seen Hitler being portrayed as a real man, and not someone who has been reduced to a barrage of evil deeds he has committed, and for that alone Downfall is worth watching. Also, the effects the war has on the fanatical Nazis is clearly shown in the movie, most notably the Goebbels family interactions.

downfallmagdachildren

  The Goebbels family…in happier(?) times

The plot is good, and the subject has been dealt with extremely well. The atmosphere of the movie, the one of tense expectance, holds up throughout the runtime of the film. And kudos to the acting department, because they were awesome all of them. Bruno Ganz, playing the Fuhrer, plays him to perfection, and the emotional outbursts are truly disturbing. Trundl Junge, played by Alexandra Maria Lara, is portrayed realistically as well. But the one who really steals the show, is Corinna Harfouch, who plays Magda Goebbels in the film. Her role as the fanatic Nazi supporter of Adolf is truly the highlight of the film, and her acting is disturbingly captivating.

The only negative thing about the movie is all the suicides throughout. Towards the end of the film, some of these suicides take on a comical quality due to the frequency, and me and my friend who watched the film with me, had a hard time trying to not make fun of all the suicides. But all-in-all, a great example of German cinema.

RATING : 8.2/10

PROS :
– acting
– tense atmosphere throughout
– the German viewpoint

CONS :
– too many suicides(but well, it was unavoidable) make it unintentionally funny in places