DATELINE: Rare Gem
Sensitive, intelligent, cultured films like Frantz manage to be amazing discoveries for those who find such an artistic gem. It’s beautiful, with hints of classical sounds from Rimsky-Korsakoff to Mahler. It is in both German and French, with English subtitles.
It’s black and white, with occasional bursts of faint pastel.
That said, the audience is down to a handful of discriminating aficionados of movie-making.
This film manages to be fascinating in its plot and full of surprises. In 1919 after the war, a lovely German woman discovers a Frenchman leaving flowers on the grave of her dead fiancé. It is a mystery that never fully unravels until the turn of events is a reversal of fortunes.
The story is one of serene melancholy, elegiac in its mourning and works for anyone who loses a soldier to war.
A Frenchman in Germany after World War I encounters cultural hostility—and when the German girl goes to Paris, the reverse holds true. In the beginning, slowly the dead soldier’s parents appreciate the Frenchman who claims to be a friend to their son, meeting him in Paris before the war where they both shared an interest in the violin.
You may rightfully be suspicious of what is behind the obvious facts. You might also be quite wrong when you jump to conclusions. The dead soldier story can be traced back to a 1932 film made by Ernst Lubitsch called Broken Lullaby.
Pierre Niney is so peculiar as Adrien, the French ami of Frantz, that you may find his performance is, in itself, a red herring—and Paula Beer is so enchanting as the dead man’s heartbroken fiancee that the audience must feel her tragedy.
Yet, it is director Francois Ozon who is the mastermind behind the pieces so beautifully woven together—music, images, emotions.
You might encounter such a film experience rarely nowadays. Frantz is a haunting masterpiece.