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.
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
– lead actress is brilliant
– narrow target audience