Listen, Hoss: The Movie, “Phoenix”

The German movie Phoenix (2015), by Christian Petzold, brought certain thoughts to mind.

First, if people will not behave humanely during wartime, when will they behave humanely?  Second, the film concerns ordinary people living in a defeated Germany after WWII, and their actions are mundane, unheroic, sometimes scheming.  At the same time, they are often rising from the ashes (the book Phoenix is based on is titled Return from the Ashes):  such is the case with Nelly (Nina Hoss), a concentration camp survivor.

Though overrated, the film is a good one, finely directed and photographed.  One of its few flaws is that it peters out instead of actually concluding.  But listen, Hoss: your acting is marvelous, as is that of Ronald Zehrfeld.  That is, Hoss is marvelous playing a woman with a broken spirit, one who seems normally sensitive and deeply appreciative of a man’s love but is also capable of rebuilding strength and initiative when necessary.  Zehrfeld pulls off a smart working-class dude, the husband of Nelly who does not recognize her.

(In German with English subtitles)


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