In 1919 before the reality of the First World War had become apparent to French and German civilian populations, a bereaved German woman visits her deceased fiancé’s grave. Standing before it she finds an unknown French soldier.
Directed by François Ozon, starring Pierre Niney and Paula Beer and spoken in French and German, Frantz is 113 minutes of honest cinema that explores the destructiveness of war on individuals.
For the most part filmed in black-and-white, its lack of colour creates a feeling of lifelessness during the lesser-covered years immediately following the First World War. It is not all black and white and Ozon uses occasional colour to escape from the darkness of the time.
The film follows the death of the title character, German soldier Frantz Hoffmeister, and the grief caused to his fiancé, his parents, and Frenchman Adrien Rivoire whose post-war torment pushes him to confront them and, eventually, reveal his terrible secret.
At just shy of two hours long Frantz is not a fast-paced film and for one which attempts to deal with the horrors of the Great War has few scenes of actual warfare.
The narrative is not about the camaraderie of battle, of facing an enemy or of victory or defeat. It is about the horrors that resonate within combatants and their families for years hence.
Pierre Niney’s delivery of Adrien is flawless and his grief is clear from his earliest on-screen moments.
Ernst Stötzner and Marie Gruber as the Hoffmeisters are a vulnerable but powerful couple whose love for their son puts into question the importance of receiving the truth from the battlefield.
The film also deals with the greater themes of love and loss, of searching for answers and of moving on from tragedy.
Frantz is a touching, thought provoking film that rejects the glorification of war.
It is a journey of the longer lasting impacts warfare has on society and acknowledges returning soldiers seldom return unaffected, that there is little reprieve for those who lose loved ones and no true victory for either side.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Distributor: Sharmill Films
In cinemas April 13.