VOD film review: Frantz
Paula Beer’s performance8
Confusing switch from black and white6
A plot more French than Camembert6
Roxy Simons | On 12, May 2017
Director: Francois Ozon
Cast: Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stotzner, Marie Gruber
Anna has lost her fiancé in the war. Heartbroken and unsure what to do, she often finds herself visiting her beloved Frantz’s grave. One day, while visiting, she discovers that someone else has been leaving flowers at his grave: a bleary-eyed Frenchman, named Adrien, who claims to have been his friend. She takes him to her fiancé’s family, and while his father is not initially taken with him (he tells him that “Every French man killed my son”), it doesn’t take long before his tales of their time together in Paris gets them interested.
The problem is that it’s all a lie: Adrien is actually Frantz’s killer desperate for redemption. When Anna learns about this it shocks her and the hope that his presence has helped to restore is immediately shattered. She decides to keep the truth from her fiancé’s family, though, and with time, begins to understand why Adrien had decided to tell them such fanciful tales. She starts to forgive him, and when her letter to him is returned, she decides to go to Paris to find him.
Francois Ozon’s latest film is a lavish retelling of the 1932 drama Broken Lullaby, but this time, the focus has shifted. The spotlight is taken from the Frenchman seeking forgiveness for killing a German soldier and is, instead, put on the soldier’s mourning fiancé Anna. This proves to be an excellent decision on Ozon’s part: the melodrama depends largely on his protagonist’s journey and the way in which she opens up and changes from being a quiet-spoken mourner to a woman with strong independence. The fact that it works so well is thanks to the performance given by Paula Beer, she’s captivating in the role, breathing life into a character that could have easily been overshadowed. While Pierre Niney does a fine job as the guilt-ridden Adrien, it’s Paula Beer who stands out.
Presented almost entirely in black-and-white, Frantz is visually stirring and easily emulates the post-WWII dramas that it’s inspired by. It compliments Anna’s story well, and makes everything seem quite elegant. Ozon often switches between black-and-white and technicolour to try and show the changes that Anna’s character goes through. However, since there is no clear link between the different filming styles, it’s a slightly off-putting experience. One minute, it’s used to highlight the lies that Adrien tells Anna and her family about his friendship with Frantz, and the next, it’s used to illustrate the growing romantic feelings between the two leads.
This is a moving film about the evolution of a woman following the death of her fiancé. While it is slow-paced at times, and it switches from black-and-white to colour for no clear reason, this is a powerful watch, thanks to Paula Beer’s take on Anna. If you watch this film for only one reason, it should be for her breathtaking performance.