LOCATION: auditorium at the Knott Science Center
Notre Dame of Maryland University
Phoenix (Christian Petzold, 2014, 98 minutes)
introduction and commentary by Linda DeLibero, Director, Film & Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Christian Petzold (b.1960) began his filmmaking career in 1995 and quickly became the most prominent member of the Berlin School, a loosely organized group of auteurs that sprang up in the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall and whose work largely concerns German cultural and political identity under reunification. Petzold has probed these themes in a series of films starring his muse, Nina Hoss, the remarkable German actress who has appeared in six of his movies. In their latest, however, Petzold directly tackles the subject that haunts all of post-World War II German cinema, the Holocaust. This noirish masterpiece examines the tragedy’s aftermath, explicitly paying homage to Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’ and Franju’s ‘Eyes Without a Face’ in a fable-like tale as gripping as it is haunting. Hoss plays Nelly, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz whose newly reconstructed face affords her the opportunity to return to Berlin, and to the husband who betrayed her and who fails to recognize her. Their unfolding relationship becomes a beautifully complex meditation on German history, trauma, and memory, culminating in one of the most unforgettable final scenes in recent film.
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