Both a powerful allegory for post-war regeneration and a rich Hitchcockian tale of mistaken identity, Phoenix once again proves that German filmmaker Christian Petzold and his favourite star, Nina Hoss, are one of the best director-actor duos working in movies today. Like their last collaboration, Barbara, this pared down piece uses one woman’s harrowing story to explore Germany’s troubled past.

Severely disfigured by a gunshot wound, former nightclub singer, Nelly (Hoss), arrives back in Berlin. The only survivor of a Jewish family, Nelly has inherited enough to pay for expensive plastic surgery, after which she plans to quit Germany for good. The film’s title refers to a cabaret where Nelly starts showing up in search of her husband, the pianist Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld). That she finds him right away, and that he doesn’t recognise her, is one of several twists that Petzold has in store as the story subtly moves into thriller territory. As Nelly comes into her own, Hoss literally finds a new voice – culminating in an explosive final scene that’s as perfect as they come.

Jordan Mintzer
The Hollywood Reporter

Presented in co-operation with the Goethe-Institut Irland


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