Filled with mixed emotions the movie Frantz takes to art houses this weekend in the South Florida area. Nicely directed and co-written by Francois Ozon noted French filmmaker the movie entrances as it slowly spools out the big screen. Heartwarming and heartbreaking the story gives the feel of what many families experienced following the end of World War I.
It’s been a couple of years since Anna’s (Paula Beer) husband to be, Frantz (Anton von Lucke), was killed in WWI and had been buried in France in a mass grave with many other German soldiers. Anna still puts flowers on his empty grave that was dedicated to his memory by his mother and father Magda (Marie Gruber) and Doctor Hans Hoffmeister (Ernst Stotzner). Still living with Frantz’s parents at their request, Anna goes about the business of helping them as much as she can.
One day as she approaches Frantz’s grave she notices a young man around his age placing flowers at the headstone. The next day she sees him again and asks who he may be. He introduces himself as Adrien (Pierre Niney) a close friend and fellow violinist of her fiancé and just wanted to pay respects to the brave soldier. He asks Anna if he can visit Doctor Hoffmeister and he goes to see him. Noticing that he is a Frenchman, Hoffmeister refuses to talk to Adrien as he believes all the French are responsible for his son’s death.
Adrien feels he is at an impasse, but when Anna finds she may be attracted to the man, she tries to convince the Doctor to give him a chance. So begins a story of forbidden romance, guilt and a matter of pretense. Director Francois Ozon delivers his film in black and white giving it a feel of post-World War I. He takes his audience through a series of flashbacks in color featuring Frantz and Adrien visiting an art gallery and playing violin together while he was stationed in Paris. Then he delivers a punch, awakening his audience to the fact that there’s more to the story than relationships and acceptance of a Frenchman on German soil.
Delivering a fine acting performance, Paula Beer creates a woman who has had her heart torn due to a great loss. She shows Anna’s loneliness and her desire to never forget the man she deeply loved. As the film progresses Beer extends her arc of being seduced by Adrien and accepting him as a replacement of her loss. But it’s not all that it seems to be and she suffers a setback that adds a twist to the story.
Playing the friend of Frantz, Pierre Niney has to be convincing in the role of the hated Frenchman. He’s seen by all in the German town as a murder who killed their children and loved ones. Determined to come face to face with the suffering of Franz’s parents and free himself with guilt, he uses Anna as a last resort. Niney nails the role and makes Adrien a welcomed guest in the nest of the defeated Germans. His chemistry with Beer showing the renewed romance gets increasingly believable and his acceptance by the Hoffmeister’s as a surrogate son delivers the final set up for the fall.
Frantz has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements including brief war violence. The film is shown in the German and French language with English subtitles.
FINAL ANALYSIS: An intriguing drama that mixes romance with war
Additional Film Information:
Cast: Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Johann von Bülow, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair and Alice de Lencquesaing
Directed by: François Ozon
Genre: Drama, War
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including brief war violence
Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Distributed by: Music Box
Released in: Black and White