Loss, grief and internal reconciliations formed the dominant themes in François Ozon’s meditative anti-war melodrama Frantz – loosely adapted from Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby and structured along the classical form of a three-act play. The themes, therefore, might remind one of his magnificent Under the Sand; however, in place of the gutting and implosive ferocity of the latter, what we have here is a sedate, gently affecting and heavily underplayed quietude – which, in fact, might even leave one tad underwhelmed despite the emotionally dense context. In the excellent first act which is set in the ancient German town of Quedlinburg just after the end of the Great War, Anna (Paula Beer), who’s in mourning for her fiancé Frantz who’s fallen on the battlefield, and Frantz’s grief-stricken parents – the seemingly gruff father (Ernst Stötzner) who despises war and hatred, and the warm and caring mother (Marie Gruber) – develop a deeply affecting relationship with Adrien (Pierre Niney), a mild-mannered Frenchman who was apparently Frantz’s friend when the latter was in Paris; meanwhile, rabid nationalism is brewing around them in a precursor to the eventual rise of Nazism. The desolate middle act portrayed Anna’s visit to war ravaged Paris in search for Adrien, despite a dark secret that he’d confided to her while leaving Germany. And, in the rather placid final act their brief reconnect ends on a dour anti-climactic note. Hence, as may be guessed, each act was stronger than the one following it; and, while the elegant B/W photography added a layer of melancholy to the proceedings, interjection of splashes of colour felt avoidable. Manet’s bleak painting Le Suicidé, by the way, served as a manifestation of the curtailed emotions.
Director: Francois Ozon
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/War Drama