Transplanting a novel to current times while adapting it for the screen can be an interesting but tricky exercise. Jerichow, which was adapted to present-day Germany from James M. Cain’s hardboiled classic The Postman Always Rings Twice, was an assured effort, even if not at par with Visconti’s brilliant Ossessione or Tay Garnnet’s classic noir. With Transit – adapted from Anna Seghers’ powerful and trenchant tour de force, albeit to present-day Marseilles, and the final chapter in his trilogy also comprising of Barbara and Pheonix – Petzold made an austere, restrained, deeply existentialist and strikingly beautiful film. Set in a neo-fascist and heavily militarized Europe, Georg (Franz Rogowski), on the run for political reasons, stumbles upon the belongings (manuscript, passport, letter from his estranged wife) of Weidel – an author who’s committed suicide in a Parisian hotel – and with those he flees to the port city with the hopes of emigrating to Mexico. And thus begins four intertwined narrative strands – the Mexican Consulate mistakes him for Weidel, and he plays along; he becomes infatuated with the enigmatic Marie (Paula Beer), who’s in a complicated relationship with a forlorn doctor (Godehard Giese), while stuck to the memory of her husband Weidel; he develops an affecting kinship with an immigrant kid who’s the son of a dead comrade from the Resistance; and, he witnesses the darkly ironic stasis of people desperate to escape. The last aspect, borne out of Kafkaesque geopolitical bureaucracy, along with its darkly satirical ramifications – which were the most unforgettable aspects of the novel – was tad underplayed here; it nevertheless was a remarkably layered and complex film, laced with melancholia, fragility, political prescience, brooding fatalism, and a haunting, low-key score.
Director: Christian Petzold
Genre: Drama/Existential Drama/Political Satire/War Drama