Summer 2015 Features series
Sunday, June 7, 2015 at 8:00pm
Directed by Christian Petzold
Screenplay by Christian Petzold and Harun Farocki
Based on the book by Hubert Monteilhet
Starring Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, and Nina Kunzendorf
Rated PG ·
Germany / Poland
German and English
With his internationally acclaimed films The State I Am In, Yella and Jerichow, Christian Petzold established himself at the forefront of the group of contemporary German filmmakers known as the Berlin School. Following the success of his previous film, Barbara, Petzold returns with another story of a fiercely determined woman—and the deeply divided society to which she belongs—caught between a tragic past and an uncertain future.
Emerging from a concentration camp at the end of World War II, Nelly Lenz (played by the formidable Nina Hoss, Petzold’s regular star) undergoes significant reconstructive surgery to repair a facial injury caused by a bullet wound. Nelly wants everything to be exactly the way it was before the war—including her appearance—but it is not. Presumed dead by her friends and relatives, fixated on the memories of her former life and unable to accept the shattered reality before her, Nelly returns to Berlin to fulfill the dream that sustained her throughout her imprisonment: reuniting with her husband, Johnny (Ronald
Zehrfeld, Hoss’ co-star in Barbara). But even as she scours the ravaged city to find him, she is haunted by terrible, whispered rumours: that it was Johnny himself who betrayed her to the Nazis.
Travelling beyond Barbara’s setting in the former East Germany to further explore his country’s dark twentieth-century history, Petzold positions Nelly as a powerfully ambiguous representation of the titular phoenix: rising from the ashes of her broken life, she strives not to begin anew but to reclaim the old dreams of the past. Gorgeously shot, featuring impeccable art direction, a faultless score, and two powerhouse performances in the leading roles, Phoenix is one of the most thrilling and engrossing dramas of the year.
“Both a powerful allegory for post-war regeneration and a rich Hitchcockian tale of mistaken identity, Phoenix once again proves that German filmmaker Christian Petzold and his favorite star, Nina Hoss, are clearly one of the best director-actor duos working in movies today.” (Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter)
“Because Petzold is such a gifted storyteller, with the lean, driving narrative sense of the film noir masters, he also keeps those twists and turns chugging smoothly along, building to a climax so expertly orchestrated that one imagines he started with it in mind and worked the rest of the movie backward from there.” (Scott Foundas, Variety)