Get over your disbelief that a husband could not recognise her wife, even when returning from the concentration camps and a face surgery, and you’ll have a deep cinema experience when watching Christian Petzold’s Phoenix. Set in 1945, immediately after the conquest of Berlin, the film tells the story of a German Jewish woman who returns to the capital from the camps, mutilated and shattered. What makes the story special is her particularity. She’s very rich to begin with. She’s a singer. She’s desperate to find her husband, a pianist. When she finds him, the man sees a woman that looks a bit like his wife he thinks dead, and decides to use her to get her inheritance money. Sounds cheesy and silly. Luckily this is where disbelief returns. Petzold’s command of the film is impeccable. His formal and stylistic choices are sparse, focused on the woman’s (Nina Hoss - beautiful performance) transformation.
I seem to be in my Jewish period. I’m reading Elie Wiesel’s Memoirs nowadays and it’s like a big lid on how I understand history and life is being lifted. We had 1501 Jewish people in my hometown in 1930. There’s one left.