François Ozon begins with psychological mystery, then bends it into an intriguingly complex look at nationalism. In a small German town circa 1919, a woman named Anna (Paula Beer) still mourns Frantz, the fiancée she lost in the Great War; at his grave one day, she finds a French soldier named Adrien (Pierre Niney), who has his own history with Frantz. Ozon gets clunky with his symbolism, from the elbow-nudge of the Frantz/France homophone, to the way he switches from black-and-white to color to signal an emotional shift. But while it initially appears that the narrative will build to revealing the nature of Adrien’s relationship to Frantz, Ozon actually drops that bombshell only half-way through, allowing the story then to evolve into a study of survivor guilt and uncertainty about how to move on from tragedy, tangled up in an exploration of how the villains of a war are only obvious depending on where you’re standing. Strong performances by Beer and Niney give Frantz the humanism it needs to push through the director’s occasional heavy hand.
Director: François Ozon
Producer: Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Stefan Arndt and Uwe Schott
Cast: Pierre Niney, Paula Beer, Ernst Stötzner, Marie Gruber, Johann Bülow, Anton von Lucke, Cyrielle Clair and Alice Lencquesaing