Phoenix

2014

Drama / History / Music / Romance

8
IMDb Rating 7.3 10 13687

Synopsis


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Cast

Nina Hoss as Nelly Lenz
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840.82 MB
1280*534
German
PG-13
23.976 fps
1hr 38 min
P/S 40 / 145
1.58 GB
1920*800
German
PG-13
23.976 fps
1hr 38 min
P/S 43 / 149

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by A.W Richmond 7 / 10

Different Ashes

Hubert Monteilhet's novel has been filmed three times I saw two of them. The 1960's Return From The Ashes and this one, Phoenix (2014) - the one I haven't seen is a TV version from the 1980's Le retour d'Elisabeth Wolff, but now I really want to see it. Phoenix is a moody, painful journey to a rebirth. Nina Hoss is lovely as the survivor, Ronald Zehofeld plays the husband, object of her obsession. He's an interesting actor, a mix between Benicio del Toro and the young Orson Welles. Their scenes together have a realistic, tangible suspense. But Christian Petzold, the director of Jerichow (2008), gives the whole film a severe pace and tone, the 1964 version has a sharp, sophisticated script by Julius J Epstein with titles like Casablanca to his credit and J Lee Thompson at the helm, Thompson directed films like The Guns Of Navarone, Cape Fear and What A Way To Go. So his version, Return From The Ashes, is a whole other experience, at time it's even funny. With a superlative international cast cast, Maximilian Schell, Ingrid Thulin and Samantha Eggar - So one can see both films as it they weren't even related.

Reviewed by leigh-marker 9 / 10

The curtain descends, everything ends....

Will the references to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo never end? A very blatant citation is in David Lynch's Twin Peaks, with Sheryl Lee playing both blonde victim Laura Palmer and her cousin, brunette doppelganger Madeleine. Before and after that, there have been several instances, some more successful than others. Christian Petzold's glorious war drama, "Phoenix", falls firmly into the first category. Disfigured Jewish musician Nelly Lenz (the ever luminous Nina Hoss) has to undergo a painful facial reconstruction, after having survived the horror of the concentration camps. Helped by close friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), Nelly slowly comes back to life, but her main goal is to find her beloved husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld). We are at the end of World War II and Berlin is nothing but a heap of rubble. People roam the streets aimlessly and, among the destruction and the uncertainty, there is a sense of a nation having lost its identity. Nelly looks at herself in a mirror and sees a stranger and when Lene tells her "You're Jewish", as if to assert at least one undeniable truth, Nelly refuses to accept it. The only thing that tethers her to reality is the love for her lost husband and she stumbles on him by chance, working as a busboy at the Phoenix cabaret. He doesn't recognise her, but acknowledges a passing resemblance to his allegedly dead wife. Nelly is heartbroken, but doesn't have the courage to reveal the truth. Johannes (who is not Jewish and no longer wants to be called Johnny) knows that his wife has an unclaimed fortune in a Swiss bank, so he devises a plan – and here's the Vertigo nod – to transform this stranger into his dead wife. Nelly agrees to the plan, hoping that by living at such close quarters, he will eventually discover her real identity. He doesn't. Even when it becomes quite evident that, as Lene suggested, he'd betrayed her to the Nazis, Nelly keeps her side of the bargain, growing more confident as she resumes her former identity, as she struggles to be the woman she no longer is. The finale is powerful and moving: I won't reveal it, but I'll just say that it involves a tattoo and a Kurt Weill song. It will stay with you long after the words "the end". The premise of "Phoenix" is obviously rather far fetched, but the acting, cinematography and direction are all stunning and I am quite surprised the film has not been more widely praised (I was expecting it to get an Oscar nod). Nina Hoss, who is a Petzold regular and was great in "Barbara", gives a career-best performance, fine-tuning the metamorphosis of the character from haggard and desperate concentration camp victim to brittle, yet strong and confident survivor. A real Phoenix, rising from the ashes of a past that can no longer be recreated. Ronald Zehrfeld, who also starred in "Barbara", is wonderful as Johannes, a man whose refusal to see what's in front of his eyes is steadfast at first, but slowly crumbles as the film unfolds, and finally collapses in an emotional reveal that the actor depicts with understated emotional mastery. But the real star of the film is the director, the fantastic Christian Petzold, who has crafted a moving, intelligent and unforgettable story, one that never tries to cheaply tug at your heartstrings. Regardless of his historical setting, it's a universal tale that tells of how we all strive for identity and meaning and of how, in the face of the worst possible betrayal, we can still find the strength to turn

Reviewed by Howard Schumann 10 / 10

Resonant and powerful

"I feel wherever I go, that tomorrow is near, tomorrow is here, and always too soon" – Speak Low, Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash

Just released from Auschwitz, Nelly Lenz's (Nina Hoss) face is disfigured and bandaged as she crosses a checkpoint in Berlin in 1945 with her friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), a worker for the Jewish Agency for Palestine. Though Nelly is free to go anywhere, she is encouraged by Lene to move to Haifa, but is reluctant to move on. Based on a novel by Hubert Monteilhet from a screenplay co-written by the director and the late Harun Farocki, Christian Petzold's Phoenix explores the reality of German guilt and the trauma of those who survived, focusing on two people, one who desperately wants to forget the past and the other who is unable to let go of it.

Before undergoing restorative surgery, Nelly says, "I want to look the same as before," but it is not to be. Her face is rebuilt but she is now unrecognizable and only a sad reminder of the alluring night club singer she used to be, a shadow who walks ghost-like through the ruins of Berlin searching for her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), whose love she claims was the only thing that kept her alive in the dark days. Lene tells her to stay away, that Johnny, a non-Jew, betrayed her to the Nazis and then divorced her, but Nelly refuses to believe it is true. The record shows, however that Johnny was arrested on October 4th and released on October 6th, the same day Nelly was arrested.

When she finds the former pianist, now a busboy in a night club named "The Phoenix," he notices that she looks like Nelly but is so convinced that his wife is dead that he cannot give credence to the thought of her survival. Whether he truly does not recognize her or simply cannot confront the role he played in her arrest is uncertain but brings to mind the proverbial saying, "There are none so blind as those that will not see." Johnny sees only that Nelly, having lost her family in the war, stands to inherit a small fortune locked away in a Swiss bank. Creating the atmosphere of a Hitchcock-like film noir, Johnny's small, crowded apartment becomes the location where a scheme is hatched in to claim Nelly's money and divide it between them. To that end, Johnny trains her to look, act, and talk like Nelly.

The beleaguered woman plays his game, not knowing where it will lead but afraid to tell him the truth. Masterly crafted by Petzold and cinematographer Hans Fromm, Phoenix is marked by stunning performances from Zehrfeld who co-starred in Petzold's last film Barbara, and by Nina Hoss whose haunting performance is unforgettable. Hoss' shattered look, repressed emotions, and shaky voice are so natural that her gradual awakening to the reality of what her life is about truly epitomizes a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Though oddly rejected by both Cannes and Venice, Phoenix may be remembered long after the Festival winners have been forgotten, particularly the film's final scene, a moment that is so resonant and powerful that it may become an important part of film history.

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