- 15 May 17
Subtle drama addresses post-war grief and the tricky morality of comfort
Set in the aftermath of the First World War, Anna (Paula Beer) plays a young woman grieving the death of her fiancé Frantz on the battlefield. Staying with his parents in their idyllic German village, she meets a mysterious young man, Adrien (Pierre Niney), who claims to be Frantz’s long-time friend from Paris. Anna becomes drawn to him; initially because he offers her a unique connection to Frantz, and then because of Adrien’s own charm.
Their connection reveals the lingering grief and hostility of those around them, who are still navigating the emotional devastation of the war. “Every Frenchman is my son’s murderer,” declares Frantz’s father.
However, for an anti-war film, Frantz’s focus is on the smaller questions, those about the morality of lying even if it alleviates pain, and whether redemption can be attained without fully owning your sins.
As the film takes on the tone of a Hitchcockian detective story, the micro and macro themes converge compellingly. As Anna hunts down answers to quell her inner conflict regarding Adrien, she becomes a symbol for two nations scrambling to understand the tragedies past, and searching for redemption.
Francois Ozon has always been one of France’s most daring filmmakers, and in a way Frantz is an uncharacteristically subtle offering. Its biggest risk is its own existence, as it acts as a (very differently focused) remake of a film by the legendary director Ernst Lubitsch. Shot in refined black and white but slowly blooming into colour as emotional truths are revealed, its style echoes its message; that it can take longer to see the truth behind beautifully crafted tales, and sometimes it’s hard to decide which is more comforting; the truth or the lie.