Film review: FRANTZ, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Celebrated and provocative French director Francois Ozon’s latest film Frantz is a slow-moving but undeniably affecting piece of cinematic art.

Set in 1919 with Europe physically and emotionally scarred by the First World War, the film focuses on young German woman Anna (Paula Beer) whose fiancée Frantz (Anton von Lucke) was killed in the trenches in France. Visiting the cemetery one day she notices a young Frenchman, Adrien (Pierre Niney) tending her deceased lover’s grave. He presents himself as Frantz’ pre-war friend and describes a seemingly idealistic time they spent together imbibing French high culture at the Louvre and classical music recitals. Ingratiating himself to Anna and Frantz’ parents he even begins to form a romantic relationship with the grief-stricken young woman. The seething post-war divisions between German and French people and a painful secret Adrien withholds, however, threaten their.

This is not a plot driven film as Ozon is mostly concerned with atmosphere, emotion and character. Combining, Pascal Marti’s sumptuous black and white cinematography with Philippe Rombi’s evocative Bernard Herman-esque score, Ozon fashions a potent and mysterious drama which at times recalls Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

Through the characters Ozon provides a moving portrait of guilt, grief, resentment and regret. Performances occasionally veer toward the more melodramatic style of the 1940’s but never go over the top with Beer as the compassionate Anna and Niney as the sickly, melancholic Adrien both excellent.

Ozon also provides a disturbing picture of a damaged early 20th Europe with people still suspicious of outsiders and displaying the first stirrings of breast-beating nationalism that would erupt 20 years later. One can’t help but suspect Ozon is also alluding to the political present.

The film’s languid pace may test some people’s patience but its remarkable images and vivid characters will prove intoxicating for most audiences.

Nick’s rating: ***1/2.

Genre: Historical drama.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Francoise Ozon.

Release date: 20th April 2017.

Running time: 113 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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