Sunday, September 27, 2015


The scars of the past linger within us, both physically and emotionally. We can put on a smile, laugh at a joke or be in the company of others but the painful sensation of those memories stay with you for all eternity.

Christian Petzhold's Phoenix is set in the aftermath of World War II, and the wounds of of the battle resonate within the characters, especially Nelly (Nina Hoss). Set within the rubble-filled remains of Germany, the film follows Nelly as she tries to regain the life she had before the war. (It's easier said than done.)

In a similar way to what Robert Krasker did with Odd Man Out and The Third Man decades earlier, Hans Fromm's work for Phoenix features night scenes with looming shadows, making them look like the ghosts of the destroyed city. To quote Isaiah 26:19, "Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead."

There's another detail of Fromm's cinematography that's worth mentioning. Many of the shots capturing Nelly have her face hidden whether it be concealed by shadows or a veil or being shot from behind. It's as if both Petzhold and Fromm are doing their own take on Vertigo and its mysterious woman. (Also the title has a nice double meaning behind it.)

Phoenix is a deeply stunning film. Much like Ida the previous year, the film focuses on the aftermath of one of history's many atrocities. And that final scene. God, that's a work of art in of itself.

My Rating: *****


  1. My theater had this for a week then got rid of it. I'm so annoyed that I missed it. Great review, I hope I like it better than Ida.

    1. Hopefully it'll be on Netflix before you know it.


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