Sunday, September 25, 2016

TIFF 16 Film Review - Frantz

Prolific French director Francois Ozon steps far away from his comfort zone with his latest film Frantz. The majority of the film is in black and white. The main language is German and the subject matter is very somber. The departure is the first of many parallels that can be drawn from the production. The two main characters one German and the other French also venture to each others country with tensions still high shortly after the completion of the Great War.

Anna (Paula Beer) lives in the small town of Oldenburg with the parents of her fiancee Franz Hoffmeister who died in the last days of World War I. She goes to his grave every day to water, maintain and leave fresh flowers. One day she notices a stranger at the grave leaving flowers. On her next sighting of the stranger Adrien (Pierre Niney) she learns that he new Frantz in Paris before the war and brings him home to the Hoffmeisters hoping that news of his friendship with Frantz could bring them some comfort.

Ozon's narrative roots stem from the 1932 Ernst Lubisch production Broken Lullaby. The earlier production had a stronger anti-war sentiment however some of those elements do inhabit the piece mainly though Adrien and flashbacks of Frantz neither of whom ever wanted to go to war or saw a difference in young men wearing a French or German solders uniform. A surprising discussion comes from the fathers of Oldenberg in one of their weekly meetings. They openly admit that the deaths of their sons and sons of French fathers is their responsibility as it is their generations actions that sent the young men off to war in the first place. Ozon also uses an effective technique of switching in and out of monochrome. First its used for the flashback scenes of Frantz then at other key occasions during the film. Ozon's use of mainly black and white fits the project as the simple colour palate fits perfectly with the images the viewer's image of the era.

Paula Beer and Pierre Niney are first-rate in the lead rolls. Beer's Anna is stuck at the start of the film until Adrien brings her out of her rut and moves her thoughts out of her past to the present and even to contemplating the future. Adrien is totally distraught having seen the Great War up close. His trip to Oldenberg eases his conscious and soothes him more when he sees the effect his presence has on Anna and Frantz parents. Ernst Stoetzner is strong in a supporting role as Frantz father the local town doctor. He is a proud German and very anti French stating that All Frenchmen killed my son but grows to tolerate, like and even contemplate Adrien as a suitable suitor for Anna as Adrien tells stories and antidotes of Frantz pre-war life in Paris.

Frantz is a picture that is mainly a commentary on processing loss. A secondary theme is choosing the best story to tell if one account will inflict even more pain on those that are grieving. The anti-war  subject matter of the sours material is pushed to a minor role in the production. There are two strong sequences of nationalism with each of the main characters in a foreign land that show despite the horrors each nation had just endured that it would not take much to whip up sentiment to plunge into the theatre of combat once again.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Frantz | Francois Ozon | France / Germany | 2016 | 113 Minutes.

Tags; The Great War, Death, Grave, Paris, The Louvre, Black & White, Grief, Sorrow, Edouard Manet, The Suicide.

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