German and French language film set in Germany in 1921. A few years after the first World War a young French man travels to Germany to pay his respects to the grave of Frantz, a man he claims he knew as a friend in Paris before the war. The Fiancee of Frantz, Anna, becomes infatuated with the young French man, and his love for his friend. She lives with Franz’s parents and cannot move on with her life. As she becomes closer and closer to Adrien the truth of his relationship with Frantz comes out, and shatters Anna’s fragile existence.
Frantz is one of those rare films that has everything you want in a drama. It leads you in a direction you think you can grab a handle on, the acting is amazing, and then when you think you have a firm grip on what is going on everything changes. Do not, and I’m going to repeat that to you all day long, DO NOT miss this film. It’s far from my type of usual entertainment, no giant explosions, no over the top action, but I sat there and was enchanted through the whole of the film.
I thought that I knew what was going on. The story of a young woman trying to cope with the death of her true love, someone she bonded with through their love of French poetry, and who thought they were going to live together forever. But the War got in the way and the bitter resentment of the German people after losing seems to be wearing her down. When Adrien turns up to mourn at the grave of Frantz, Anna wants to know more, but at first Adrien is not welcomed with open arms. Then he meets with Anna and her would have been future In Laws. He tells them the story of how Frantz and himself were the best of friends before the war in Paris. It starts to lighten the mood in the house and Anna suddenly feels like living once again. You feel that there is going to be a twist of the knife with the story, and for once, and I usually can guess these turns, I was one hundred percent wrong. I honestly thought that we were heading down the homosexual route with Frantz and Adrien, with the film showing a very joyful side to their friendship, and when the real truth came out I was stunned. It was brilliant. I honestly could not have been happier to be wrong. After the truth comes out and Adrien leaves the German village it sends Anna into a downward spiral, unable to forgive him, and to forgive herself for what she felt for Adrien.
The performances through the whole film are just perfection. But we have to concentrate on Paula Beer, the 22-year-old actress who plays Anna, her talent is just out of this world. It’s so hard for seasoned performers to give half the level of this young actress. When she is down you can feel the despair and hopelessness of her life, then she changes through to the happiness of hope that Adrien brings to her life. It’s as though there is a different performer stepping into the shoes of Anna, but it’s just Paula Beer, remember that name as I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of her in the future.
Frantz is shot mostly in black and white, and when the moments of hope in the lives of the characters comes to the front and centre we have splashes of colour. This is done gently to ease you into the thin line between hope and tragedy.
The finale of the film, which in the hands of some big studio in America would have been cheesy, but here they have the confidence to go all the way to eleven and shatter the expectations that we’ve come to expect. That is the best thing about this film, anything you expect, any normal story telling, is thrown out of the window. Do not miss this!
Director: François Ozon
Writers: François Ozon, Philippe Piazzo, Ernst Lubitsch
Stars: Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stötzner