A disfigured concentration-camp survivor, unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband who might have betrayed her to the Nazis.
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Let's be realistic.
Great Film overall
Great movie! If you want to be entertained and have a few good laughs, see this movie. The music is also very good,
As somebody who had not heard any of this before, it became a curious phenomenon to sit and watch a film and slowly have the realities begin to click into place.
Hubert Monteilhet's novel has been filmed three times I saw two of them. The 1960's Return From The Ashes and this one, Phoenix (2014) - the one I haven't seen is a TV version from the 1980's Le retour d'Elisabeth Wolff, but now I really want to see it. Phoenix is a moody, painful journey to a rebirth. Nina Hoss is lovely as the survivor, Ronald Zehofeld plays the husband, object of her obsession. He's an interesting actor, a mix between Benicio del Toro and the young Orson Welles. Their scenes together have a realistic, tangible suspense. But Christian Petzold, the director of Jerichow (2008), gives the whole film a severe pace and tone, the 1964 version has a sharp, sophisticated script by Julius J Epstein with titles like Casablanca to his credit and J Lee Thompson at the helm, Thompson directed films like The Guns Of Navarone, Cape Fear and What A Way To Go. So his version, Return From The Ashes, is a whole other experience, at time it's even funny. With a superlative international cast cast, Maximilian Schell, Ingrid Thulin and Samantha Eggar - So one can see both films as it they weren't even related.
I may be wrong, as i am watching this, this is very much like The return from the ashes, where liv Ulman returns from the camp and meets with old lover played my maxmilian schell. who marries her for her money and tries to kill her. i really enjoyed the return from the ashes, and i am equally relishing this film.
Christian Petzold explores the trauma of the Holocaust in a deeply psychological way in "Phoenix," a drama that unfolds in the aftermath of World War II as a woman with a new face and the opportunity for a fresh start after surviving the death camps must attempt to actually put concept to practice. Petzold regular Nina Hoss stars as Nelly Lenz, a Holocaust survivor who returns home to a demolished Berlin after the war following successful facial reconstructive surgery. She lives with her close friend, also Jewish, named Lene (Nina Kuzendorf), who talks of a plan to start a new life in what will shortly become Israel, but Nelly is preoccupied with finding her husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the non-Jewish jazz pianist whom she was taken from during the war, but who Lene says actually betrayed her to the Nazis. When Nelly finds Johnny, he doesn't recognize her, but the resemblance is uncanny enough that Johnny conspires to make her look like her old self in order to get her family fortune out of a Swiss bank. Nelly goes along with the ploy, hoping for the truth — and that Johnny might realize it's actually her.The premise borrows from parts of Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," but there are no thriller elements in "Phoenix," just psychological drama and a good deal of suspense between Nelly and Johnny as she becomes more and more like "the old Nelly." This premise provides a brilliant juxtaposition with the Nelly character on the whole, someone who desperately wants to become her old self and have her old life back, but of course, having lived through one of the worst horrors in human history, it's not so simple.Hoss hauntingly puts on this persona of a woman oddly hopeful yet deeply traumatized. Nelly is a shaky, uncomfortable character to watch, yet fascinating all the same. In her encounters with Johnny, we have the benefit of knowing what she knows and getting to see how she handles being so close yet so emotionally far from the man she loved. We see her hopeful that Johnny will connect the dots, and despondent as she struggles to inhabit the woman she once was. Petzold writes so much emotional subtext into this story and Hoss hits every note — no pun intended (as her character was a singer before the war).Music plays a rather critical role in the film as well. In addition to Johnny and Nelly's past as musicians and their reunion in the film at the aptly named Phoenix night club where we hear lots of music, Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash's "Speak Low" figures prominently into the story, setting a distinct tone that echoes throughout the soundtrack. Its lyrics, as well, prove all too relevant to the story without being heavy handed at all. It is one of the better and most memorable uses of a song in recent memory."Phoenix" plays out uneventfully, but Petzold allows the drama to unfurl in poignant fashion, revealing a story about identity and love and how time can change it all, seemingly on a whim, causing irreversible changes in our lives. It's a sobering message, but one with a truth that runs deep.~Steven CThanks for reading! Visit Movie Muse Reviews for more
For those commenters who deem "The Phoenix" unbelievable, with all due respect, you don't have a clue about the depth of trauma and denial in post-war Germany. I encourage you to read Farran Smith Nehme's discussion of the film, "Conversations with Christian Petzold's 'Phoenix," found on the rogerebert.com website. It's an excellent analysis of the film's background and milieu. Nehme also writes eloquently about the problem of suspension of disbelief when it comes to damaged characters living in extraordinary times; he alludes, for example, to Hitchcock's dismissal of the mindset of "the plausibles"--those literal-minded reviewers who often took exception to the logic or believability of his characters' choices. The great majority of critics, however, are smarter than that; for what makes the film absolutely riveting--and why it's received so much critical praise--is how the two main characters, due to their extraordinary historical moment, and the terrible acts they've done or been subjected to, close their eyes to things that seem perfectly obvious, yet also believe things that have no basis in reality. And the ending is unforgettable.