Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews

Film Review: ‘Phoenix’

Ronald Zehrfeld and Nina Hoss

Taking most of its plot from Hubert Monteilhet’s 1961 novel Return From the Ashes, the new movie by German filmmaker Christian Petzold feels like something out of that era. With its contrived plot and high-gloss possibilities, Phoenix would have been an ideal project for Lana Turner and director Douglas Sirk after Imitation of Life.

It begins at the end of World War II, with the re-emergence of the heavily-bandaged Nelly (the soulful Nina Hoss) from Auschwitz. She has been disfigured by a gunshot wound to the face; her friend Lene (Nina Kuzendorf) helps nurse her back to health, urging Nelly to claim her postwar reparations and join other surviving Jews in Palestine. Nelly, however, is fixated on her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld, who really looks like an old-fashioned movie star), but he thinks she is dead and doesn’t recognize her with her new face. He has an idea, however—the rat. If this mystery woman will pretend to be Nelly, they can claim her inheritance and split the money.

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Posted in: by Kathleen Murphy, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Festivals

SIFFtings 2015 – Week Three

A few short takes on SIFF offerings for the third weekend of the biggest, longest film festival in the United States.

PHOENIX (Christian Petzold, Germany, 2014; 98 minutes)
Fresh from Auschwitz and extreme facial reconstruction, Nelly returns to the noirish backstreets and bars of bombed-out Berlin, looking for what’s left of herself—and the husband whose memory helped her survive hell. Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) doesn’t recognize this gaunt, shell-shocked stranger as his once-glamorous wife, but plots to use her in a scam to inherit wealth left by Nelly’s gassed relatives. Sure to turn up on year-end Ten Best lists, this brilliant film plumbs the nature of identity, post-WWII guilt and denial, death and resurrection—and showcases a shattering performance by Nina Hoss. – KAM
Sunday, May 31, 7:15pm, SIFF Uptown Theater

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