Frantz (2016), Dir. François Ozon

Frantz (2016), Dir. François Ozon
We are fathers who drink to the death of our children.
— Hans Hoffmeister, Frantz (2016)

Stars: Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Marie Gruber, Ernst Stötzner, Johann von Bülow, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair, Alice de Lencquesaing.
Director: François Ozon
Screenplay: François Ozon & Philippe Piazzo.

Fractures within factions. The aftermath of war stems to slow healing between the two sides that have to learn to live with each other. The truth of fathers urging, encouraging, sending their sons to war for the fatherland. The knowledge that nothing was truly won, just heartache and stigmatised hatred as open wounds of loved ones still run deep. The rejection of each other continues the war that she sons sacrificed themselves for, and the knowledge of committing crimes that in wartime is acceptable but haunt you forever.

Frantz (2016) is effective as it tells a story that speaks to the haunting of such a recent war. Anna (Paula Beer) has lost her fiancé, German Soldier Frantz (Anton van Lucke) and it has been her place to help his parents heal after his death (Marie Gruber & Ernst Stötzner). One day a man appears at Frantz's grave; a French Soldier, Adrien Rivoire (Pierre Niney) who inadvertently helps heal Frantz's parents as he talks about the friend he lost in the war. A bond forms between the four as their connection to Frantz allows them to sow the wound of his loss.

There is however the feeling of foreboding, and though the 'twist' is nothing you wouldn't expect it does force the film into new territory that takes this small German/French post war family drama into more interesting and conflicting waters. The second act is where this film sings and where Paula Beer blows me away. Her inner strength slowly emerges and the depth of her sorrow and turmoil bleeds to the surface as she must deal with her loss and unfortunate knowledge of his new man.

The use of limited colour at first is captivating, then feels a little trite, but then again becomes captivating. Because this film is stronger than its beginnings. It rocks you into the belief of mediocrity only to shock you into true emotion, true uncertainty, and true love for the characters as they move away from character to truth. There is reflection on what is said at face value and what is meant by reality and perspective. As the priest says 'What would the truth bring? Only more pain.' and that is where this film eventually lies but the pain of the truth is what can set some of us free.

 

★ ★ ★ ★