PHOENIX (Toronto International Film Festival Toronto Canada 2014)

Ben Meyers’ rating: 4.1|5.0 Starsìììì

is a sadly complicated story that leaves many questions unanswered and creates more questions than answers. It is unclear why the character Nelly Lenz does not reveal herself to her husband upfront. It seems as if she wants her husband, Johnny Lenz, to do all the work of trying to figure out her real identity. It is unclear why her friend Lene commits suicide and why Nelly’s ‘friends’ are so cool and distant to the point of being unreal when re-introduced to her. The friends’ extreme coolness seems to implicate each of them as co-conspirators with her husband in her incarceration. Viewer confusion results. The movie’s end seems unfinished with so much more to be said so that the viewer is left with an emptiness; there is no closure. What happened to Nelly? Where did she go? Did she return to Israel? Did she resume her singing career? Was she emotionally stable enough to return to life? Did she love again? Did she make new friends after Lene died? What meaning does Phoenix have in this story? There are so many possible interpretations. Which one correctly fits this story? This story is significant and emotionally involves the viewer, but the viewer is left with a bag of puzzle pieces that cannot and do not fit and that is very disturbing.

Film Poster Courtesy of Wikipedia


Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss) returns from WWII concentration camps, undergoes reconstructive facial surgery to repair damage sustained during her interment, and after the surgery, looks for her husband Johnny Lenz (Ronald Zehrfeld). When she finds him, he does not recognize her but notes that she looks similar to his wife and asks her to impersonate his wife so he can collect a sizable inheritance left to her during the war years.

Additional Thanks

Thank you to Director Christian Petzold for directing efforts. Thank you to Executive Producer Jacek Gaczkowski for making the film possible. Additional characters/cast include: Lene Winter (Nina Kunzendorf), Soldat an der Brücke (Trystan Pütter), Arzt (Michael Maertens), Elisabeth (Imogen Kogge), Geiger (Felix Römer), Clubbesitzer (Uwe Preuss), Tänzerin (Valerie Koch), Tänzerin (Eva Bay), Soldat im Club (Jeff Burrell), Junge Frau (Nikola Kastner), Der Mann (Max Hopp), Mitarbeiterin Zentralstelle Halensee (Megan Gay), Wirtin (Kirsten Block), and Alfred Mohnhaupt (Frank Seppeler).

Buy a ticket? Yes? No? Maybe?

Yes. It’s an intellectual watch.

Video Critique Available Here:

Ben Meyers

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