Frantz

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frantz-742388894-large“Frantz” is ostensibly a movie about World War I — a time far removed from most Americans’ thinking. As a child one heard of it, of returning veterans, of poppy fields far away in Flanders, but it had no resonance. In Europe it meant the end of a way of life, a total change in the sociology of the Continent, massive losses, unending grief and anger. For the two opponents, stuck in trenches for years, their best, brightest and youngest destroyed in fixed battles, (the Somme, Verdun, Passchendaele), there is only bitterness, and in the case of Germany, defeat.

A mysterious young Frenchman appears in a small German town, grieving by the grave of a young German soldier whose family and fiancée are fixed in mourning and cannot get on with their lives. Anna, the fiancée, and Adrien meet in the cemetery and she invites him to meet the parents of his lost friend, Frantz. At first they resist the presence of a Frenchman. The wounds of war are still deep and cruel, but gradually they are comforted by his lively and touching stories of friendship and loss. Anna is attracted by this handsome but melancholy young man. They form a relationship that seems the beginning of love. But, no, we are being led into a labyrinth of deception and disappointment. The young Frenchman reveals that he has not been telling the truth. The young woman, Anna, is devoted to her fiancé’s parents and cannot allow them to be hurt by the horror of the real story. (What good would the truth do, her priest asks her during confession?) The sensitive vulnerable young man leaves Germany to return to his family home. Anna becomes ill. Finally she is encouraged to leave Germany, go to France to find her young Frenchman and we are led to believe that this story would have a happy ending. In a way it does, but not the predictable anodyne one. It is all a puzzle to be solved, like life.

“Frantz” is a story of forgiveness. It is a story of hope and despair and how the two interlock. It is a story told with great sensitivity, brilliant acting from the four major proponents, Pierre Niney as Adrien, Paula Beer as Anna, Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber (especially touching) as the parents. The cinematography is beautiful and haunting in its charm and originality.

Kaaren Hale

 

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Posted: 05/05/17 by Jerry Weissman

Inexplicably, the excellent “Frantz” has had an all too short shelf-life on the art house circuit since its March launch. Yet this compelling tale (inspired by Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 “Broken Lullaby”) about the ravages of war, guilt, redemption, forgiveness, devotion and unrequited love, abounds with outstanding qualities. Primary among them is how writer-director François Ozon has embedded those large thematic elements in a very intimate personal story. Of equal merit is his re-creation of post-World War I Germany and Paris, expressed in period black and white cinematography, enhanced by creative splashes of color. Finally, there is the stunning performance by the stunning Paula Beer as the protagonist through whose eyes, heart, and soul the entire panorama unfolds.

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One Response to “Frantz”

  1. Donna and I missed “Frantz” in the spring when it had its brief run in theaters. Fortunately, it’s now available streaming on Amazon Prime. We watched it last night, and can say it lives up to every accolade that Kaaren and Jerry gave it in their reviews in May.

    5 Stars

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