Saturday, February 28, 2015
Christian Petzold’s riveting new film follows Nelly (Petzold muse Nina Hoss), a concentration camp survivor returning to Berlin in search of Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the husband she still loves, who may or may not have betrayed her to the Nazis. Set in the intriguing period immediately following the war that gave rise to the Trümmerfilm (literally “rubble film”)—or “After the Camp” as Petzold puts it—Phoenix is an engrossing reflection on the postwar reconstruction of identity (as the title suggests, although it also turns out to be the name of the bar where she finds Johnny) couched as a noirish thriller of mistaken identity. Co-written with the late Harun Farocki, it is a precisely and exquisitely crafted chamber piece, resonant and gripping, softly building up to a stunning finale. A Sundance Selects release.
“An uncanny and pointed expression of postwar alienation for survivors, especially those pressed to cope with the past by forgetting it.” —Nicolas Rapold, Film Comment