Frantz

FRANTZ, drama, rated PG-13, in French and Ger­man with sub­ti­tles, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

A re­cent Time mag­a­zine cover story asked “Is Truth Dead?” François Ozon’s anti-war movie, set in Germany in the painful im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of World War I, ap­proaches the ques­tion from a dif­fer­ent an­gle: “Is Truth Nec­es­sary?”

Anna (Paula Beer) is a young Ger­man woman griev­ing over the death of her fi­ancé, Frantz (played in flash­backs by An­ton von Lucke), who was killed in ac­tion near the end of the Great War. She lives with his par­ents (Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gru­ber), and vis­its his grave daily to place fresh flow­ers. One day she finds that some­one else has done the same. The mys­te­ri­ous mourner turns out to be Adrien (Pierre Niney, who won a César in the ti­tle role of 2014’s Yves Saint Lau­rent), a blade-thin, sen­si­tive young French­man.

The emo­tional scars of the war are still fresh and painful, and most res­i­dents of the small Ger­man town, in­clud­ing Frantz’s father, a doc­tor, want noth­ing to do with the French. But Anna brings Adrien to the house, and the par­ents melt at sto­ries of his friend­ship be­fore the war with their beloved son.

It’s an anti-war movie that ac­knowl­edges its debt to a lit­tle-seen 1932 film by Ernst Lu­bitsch, Bro­ken Lul­laby. The lens of hind­sight al­lows Ozon to fore­shadow the com­ing world war in a way that was not avail­able to Lu­bitsch. In a pub scene (there are sev­eral), the father de­liv­ers a stern re­buke to the patriots (and in­cip­i­ent Nazis) of his drink­ing crowd when they rail against Adrien and the French, re­mind­ing them that they are all re­spon­si­ble for their sons’ deaths: “Who fur­nished the am­mu­ni­tion and the bay­o­nets, and sent them off to war?”

In Ozon’s film, a se­cret comes out about mid­way through, and the rest of the movie wres­tles with the is­sue of con­ceal­ing var­i­ous truths from var­i­ous par­ties. The ini­tial rev­e­la­tion it­self is not hard to an­tic­i­pate, but the ethics and pur­pose of its con­ceal­ment are the sea­son­ings with which the direc­tor stirs this pot.

Ozon (8 Women, In the House) shoots mostly in a rich, beau­ti­fully lit black-and-white, seep­ing oc­ca­sion­ally into color for flash­backs and for mo­ments when hap­pi­ness in­trudes. He reaches a lit­tle too ob­vi­ously for a bal­anced con­struc­tion, with na­tion­al­ist scenes in Ger­man pubs matched with French ver­sions, and Adrien’s re­cep­tion in Germany is off­set with hos­tile looks Anna re­ceives when she jour­neys to France. But for the most part this thought­ful film plays smooth as silk, and it is bol­stered by fine per­for­mances, par­tic­u­larly from the twenty-two-yearold Beer. — Jonathan Richards

A grave af­fair: Paula Beer and Pierre Niney

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