Rarely, if ever, have I seen Rotten Tomatoes give a movie a 99%, but Phoenix, garnered that rating. There Critic Consensus was: "Tense, complex, and drenched in atmosphere, Phoenix is a well-acted, smartly crafted war drama that finds writer-director Christian Petzold working at peak power." I agree whole heartedly.
I had seen the trailers for this movie at the two indie theaters we go to often. The story line intrigued me. The more I read about it, the more interested I was. Then the reviews came out.
In a nut shell, the story is about Nelly (Nina Hoss) a young Jewish lady who survived the Nazi concentration camps but due to a disfiguring wound to her face has to undergo reconstructive surgery. When she recovers she finds that her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), who has not seen her since she was taken to the camps, thinks she is dead, and does not recognize her. Finally she gets his attention, but not recognizing her, he wants her to impersonate his wife (her) in a scheme to get her inheritance.
Nelly will not listen to, nor heed the advice of her dear friend Lena (Nina Kunzendorf) who has been with her through the surgery and is trying to get her settled into a new life. Lena is aware of Johnny and the fact that he betrayed Nelly before she was taken away. Nelly's love is blind.
The story is intense, the acting is excellent, the scenery of post war Germany is surreal. The film is mostly in German with subtitles but that did not matter because the film moves along and the dialogue is easy to follow. The story line is a bit surprising. There were times I felt it was lagging but then by the end I realized that was part of the experience. (And 98 minutes is only so long!). It was almost as if the director wanted the audience to share in Nina's angst.
This is an excellent film and well worth your time. Unfortunately, it will probably not see a wide release until the award season when the buzz starts and everyone will want to see the film everyone is talking about.