Review: Frantz (2016)

by Marina González

In Frantz, Adrien (Pierre Niney) leaves flowers in Frantz’s tomb, under the watchful eye of Anna (Paula Beer). Anna visits Frantz’s tomb every day, he was his fiancé, who died in the First World War. She watches with curiosity while she asks herself who this young mysterious-looking man who visits Frantz’s tomb might be. Adrien has traveled from France to Germany to meet Frantz’s family, entering an unpredictable and sentimental labyrinth.

Inspired by The Broken Lullaby (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932), François Ozon draws an elegant and poetic picture about a love story in post-World War I Germany. The painting Suicide by Édouard Manet (not famous at all compared to Manet’s other paintings) is one more character in the film, a dramatic and somber picture, a metaphor for the feeling of pain and sadness that Europe was experiencing at that time. Manet’s painting contrasts upon impact with the rest of his work, which is so bright. This elegant drama serves Ozon as inspiration for the things he wants to transmit and the way he wants to transmit them.

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Frantz is, perhaps, his best work, or at least the one that better defines him as an auteur. Although in this case he seems to distance himself from his personal style of telling stories – the one we saw in Dans la maison (2012), Jeune & Jolie (2013) and Une nouvelle amie (2014) – beneath its classic movie look Frantz has many similarities and clear references to the rest of his work: his interest in identity changes and the need to sneak into the lives of others is the leitmotiv of his filmography. Characters are transformed sentimentally to survive and move on in the film.

The most interesting thing about the film is the reflection on the need to create universes through pious lies or half-truths in order to survive in a crude and complicated world. Sometimes the truth hurts and hurts a lot; the weight of carrying a lie (which relieves) can be less than the weight of the truth, especially when you know that the lie produces something good to those people that you have next. Through a smooth transition, Ozon transforms a complex drama into an optimistic story that looks forward, focusing on the future that lies ahead.

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Ozon manages in an almost organic way the changes of point of view in the narration as the film advances, performing an exquisite work of assembly. The black and white recourse for painful reality and the use of color for the bucolic universe of “what could have been” is extremely poetic.

The word that can define this film is delicacy, and Paula Beer (Best Actress Marcello Mastroianni Award – Venice Film Festival 2016) is partly the culprit. Her sight and her light illuminate everything, giving the Frantz an aura of sensitivity and elegance that floods the whole film.


Marina

Marina González / Writer (Madrid, Spain – 1985) She graduated in Mining Engineering from the Madrid Politécnica and now works at a renewable energy company, fighting against climate change. She became a film buff during college, splitting her time between books on energy & fuels and film seminars. She began reviewing in 2014, covering the San Sebastián film festival.

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