Set in both Germany and France in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, (1914-1918), “Frantz” recalls the mourning period that follows the great national tragedies as seen through the eyes of a family in Germany.
The principle story revolves around a young German woman named Anna (Paula Beer) who is the bereft fiancé of a man named Frantz who was killed during trench warfare. One day when she visits Frantz’s gravesite she meets a stranger named Adrien who is a French veteran of the war who has been mysteriously placing flowers on Frantz's grave as well. Being French Adrien's presence is met with great resistance and hostility by the small German community still reeling from Germany's defeat by the French. Still, Anna gradually gets closer to the handsome and melancholy young Frenchman, as she learns of his deep friendship with Frantz through his flashback stories about their time together in Paris before Frantz died. What follows next in the film is a surprising exploration of how these characters' wrestle with their conflicting feelings, survivor’s guilt, and anger at one's own losses, as well as the overriding desire to achieve some measure of happiness despite everything that has come before.
Review: Shot in Black and White and spoken in both German and French the 1:53 minute running time, "Frantz" initially appears to be too finely developed, too polite and too pure in its story telling leaving momentarily a slight artificial taste in my cinematic pallet. But what does occur over time is a beautiful, haunting, mature, emotional and touching tale of when tragedy does occur, sometimes decency will require telling both the truth and sometimes telling the thoughtful lie as part of both the personal and collective family healing.
In ways very similar to the academy award nominated film “Manchester by the Sea” “Frantz revealed very insightfully the fact that sadness is different for everyone. No two people will ever come to managing their grief in the exact same ways at others. And when over time those who are affected most deeply by a human loss, their eventual acceptance of a death can manifests itself in ways that can be surprisingly transformative and surprisingly beautiful.
“Frantz” structurally is a subdued, introspective and very still moving film and yet it is also a fabulously unassuming film that I enjoyed immensely.