It is 1919, just after the end of World War I, and all Germany is grieving the loss of so many young men who died in the trenches.
Anna (Paula Beer) is mourning her fiance Frantz , who was killed in the closing days of the war. She lives with Frantz’s parents in a house of grief. Hans (Ernst Stotzner) and Magda (Marie Gruber) cannot get over the loss of their son.
French writer-director Francois Ozon has produced a powerful and very moving film about the futility of war and the resulting devastation and grief.
One day at the cemetery, Anna is intrigued to see a strange young man putting flowers on Frantz’s grave. Who could he be? Why is he there?
When she tracks him down he turns out to be a Frenchman, Adrien (Pierre Niney), who tells her he and Frantz were friends in Paris before the war.
She persuades him to visit Frantz’s parents, despite Hans’s hatred of the French. “All Frenchmen killed my only son,” he says.
But he can’t help listening as Adrien recounts stories of the happy hours he spent with Frantz (played in flashbacks by Anton von Lucke). Gradually they warm to him, getting comfort from his recollections of their son.
Hans even changes his attitude to the French. He confronts a group of grieving friends who are vehement in blaming their wartime enemy for the loss of their sons.
“Who urged them to go and fight?” he asks. “We are to blame for their deaths.”
Anna and Adrien become close friends – until one day he shocks her with a brutal confession.
She cannot deal with it. Next day he leaves for France. He writes, but for a long time she doesn’t answer. When she does write, her letter comes back: Address unknown.
At the urging of Hans and Magda, Anna goes to search for him in Paris. There she is the outsider in the midst of people with a deep hatred of the Germans who killed their sons.
This is a clever and thought-provoking film with unexpected twists and turns. It has a lot to say about the harmful effects of mutual xenophobia and the healing power of forgiveness.
All the performances are excellent, specially by Paula Beer as Anna.
It is beautifully filmed, mainly shot in black and white with switches into colour for flashbacks, memories and dreams.
Frantz is now showing at Cinema Paradiso and Luna On SX.
Watch the trailer…