By Keeva Stratton
Having been imprisoned in Auschwitz, and having lost her face, Nelly returns home to Berlin in search of her former life. With her face now reconstructed, she no longer looks like herself, and her new identity raises many difficult questions for her.
Image via VagueVisages.com
Given that being Jewish—her cultural identity—sent her to a concentration camp, there are many layers to the feelings she faces by no longer having her former face. In some ways, it gives her the freedom to be someone else; in other ways, it is a further denial of who she truly is.
With relative anonymity, she goes in search of her husband; the man who allegedly betrayed her. He doesn’t recognise her, and not knowing whether he was the one who had her arrested, she withholds her true identity. Instead she agrees to pretend to be his wife, so that he can claim her inheritance.
As the ruse goes on, Nelly begins to learn the true nature of her husband, and in doing so learns about herself. It’s a powerful and emotional story of one woman’s recovery from the darkest of days.
Phoenix is a story of rebuilding. It’s also a story of what your identity means, at a time when simply having the wrong face could be a death sentence.
Rarely do we get to see a glimpse of life in Germany so soon after the war, and this fresh perspective is a timely reminder of the devastation and the horror. While the battles may have ended, the damage is lasting, and the lives it touches are forever stained.
Phoenix is a moving story that takes you on a very personal and emotional journey. It’s beautifully performed, and offers a gentle approach to its difficult and dark subject matter.
If you’re looking to feel something in the cinema during this the season of blockbusters, why not give this small but moving film a go.
Director: Christian Petzold
Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kuzendorf
Release Date: 3 December
Reviewer Rating: 3.5/5
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