here aren’t any old times,” Joseph Cotten says with a grind of boundless optimism in “The Magnificent Ambersons,” a movie made during wartime, 1942. “When times are gone, they’re not old, they’re dead. There aren’t any times but new times.”
A more threatening embodiment of that idea, of new times that seem like old times, comes to subtly provocative life in “Transit,” one of the most intriguing films of the new year. Written and directed by German filmmaker Christian Petzold, it’s an audacious reminder that there’s Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer star in ‘Transit.’
more than one way to adapt a “period” novel for a new era.
Petzold has taken on a story, set in the French port city of Marseille, affording him the opportunity to create a shapeshifting narrative, calmly explicated but full of uneasy, even damning implications of refugee crises for a new era.
The film comes from the semi-autobiographical novel by Anna Seghers (born Netty Reiling, 1900-1983), exiled in France while her husband
was in a prison camp. Seghers completed “Transit” in 1942; it was published two years later.
Petzold retains some aspects and reconstitutes others. The film wastes no time tossing you straight into its premise. German refugee Georg, played by the riveting Franz Rogowski, is in a Marseille bistro. It’s the present day, judging by the cars and the visual details. The occupying forces have taken Paris, and Marseille is next to fall.