Phoenix, Blu-ray (2014/2016)

by | Apr 8, 2016 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

A very moving German film about the years just after WW II.

Phoenix, Blu-ray (2014/2016)

Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf
Director: Christian Petzoid
Studio: WDR/mendienboard/ The Criterion Collection 809 (4/26/16)
Video: 2.39:1 for 16:9 screens, 1080p HD color
Audio: German DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround
Subtitles: English
Extras: Conversation bet. Petzoid and Nina Hoss, New interview with cinematographer Hans Fromm, “The Making of Phoenix” – 2014 documentary incl. interviews with cast members and production designer, Theatrical trailer, Essay by critic Michael Koresky in printed booklet
Length: 98 min.
Rating: *****

There are not many films about the period in Germany just after the end of the Second World War. This riveting mystery about identity starts with a German-Jewish nightclub singer who is being driven back to a hospital by a friend after having survived horrible disfigurement at Auschwitz. After her reconstructive surgery, her face is different enough that her former husband (who may or may not have betrayed her) fails to recognize her. He has her stay with him and trains her to ape his former wife, including even writing a shopping list in her handwriting style.

She is set up to supposedly arrive from the camp on the train and meet all the friends and relatives, who all seem to recognize her. It appears the only one who doesn’t is her former husband, who works in a nightclub in the American sector of Berlin. One will never forget the haunting Kurt Weill song “Speak Low” after seeing this film. She searches for the answer to what has happened to her, and the final outcome is to walk away from the whole thing.

There are many haunting nighttime scenes of the rubble-strewn streets of Berlin and the cinematography is superb.  A most moving noir-sort of film, but shot in glorious color.

—John Sunier

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