Experience this film’s wavering emotions through the face of Paul Beer, the German newcomer who is superb as Anna, a grief-stricken lover whose fiance Frantz has died at the Front.
Laying flowers on his grave in 1919, she meets a mysterious Frenchman called Adrien Rivoire (played by Saint Laurent star Pierre Niney), who eventually soothes his way into the affections of Frantz’s bereft family. The German villagers, however, bristle at the presence of an “enemy” in their midst.
What follows is a beautifully controlled melodrama that’s marked with moments of real tension and shifting allegiances. Shooting in black and white, Ozon uses Beer’s face like a silent movie star, every flicker is palpable. One can read many current parallels into a story of mistrust and of lies and there is a lot of pain here, the ripples of war’s aftermath. What hurts most, though, is the hope.
I do like Ozon, and although it’s his 17th film in 20 years, this feels like something new from him, exhibiting control and poise, as well as a director’s deep cinematic love for his characters and their story. As so often with this majorly talented film maker, it’s a minor work, in a way, but impeccable.