Rated PG, 113 minutes
In German and French with English subtitles
The French film "Frantz" is a plodding yet often compelling portrait of love and forgiveness in time of war. Though not a war movie per se, it deals heavily with its after-effects. Affecting, handsomely filmed and well-acted, it's occasionally heavy-handed in execution but still worth a look.
Anna (Paula Beer) is a bereft young German woman whose fiance, Frantz (Anton von Lucke), was killed in the trenches of World War I. Adrien (PIerre Niney), a French veteran of the war, makes a mysterious appearance in her town, placing flowers on Frantz's grave. Adrien's presence is met with resistance by the small community still reeling from Germany's defeat, yet Anna gradually becomes closer to the handsome and melancholy young man, as she learns of his deep friendship with Frantz.
Directed and co-written by French filmmaker Francois Ozon and a remake of a 1932 film "Broken Lullaby" from acclaimed German filmmaker Ernest Lubitsch, "Frantz" is a melancholy yet powerful look at how romance can develop from the trenches of tragedy and forgiveness. It's talky and Ozon likes to flip from black-and-white to color, an obvious metaphor for stark sadness to joy and love; sometimes it works (especially in its intriguing ending), other times it can be an annoyance. It looks and feels better in black-and-white, and the handsome film has some elements that will stay with you after you leave the theater.
"Frantz" is highlighted by strong performances from the leads, especially from German actress Beer as the fragile Anna, as well as from lithe French actor Niney as the torn Adrien, whose seeking forgiveness following the war. It also has some good messages of
forgiveness, and highlights how little myths or white lies are better to mask the harsh realities that truth often brings.
Aside from the lush photography and the strong performances, "Frantz" may be appreciated for its braver-than-usual ending for a bittersweet romance such as this, and its provocative ending will surely provoke some discussion too. The melancholy, slower tone may not be for everyone, but it's a worth a look.