“FRANTZ” My rating: B
113 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
“Frantz” is a rewardingly old-fashioned affair, a love story (sort of) set in the immediate aftermath of World War I and told with a quiet, unhurried perceptiveness that reminds of Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim.”
This Cesar-nominated film from writer/director Francois Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “Eight Women”) is steeped in love and loss.
Anna (a gently radiant Paula Beer) lives in a provincial German town with Doctor and Mrs. Hoffmiester (Ernst Stotzner, Marie Gruber), who would have been her in-laws had not their son, Frantz, been killed in the recent hostilities. They’ve unofficially adopted Anna; it’s one way to deal with their overwhelming loss of their only child.
Each day Anna dutifully lays flowers on Frantz’s grave (actually his body is somewhere in France); she’s surprised to discover one morning that someone else has been doing the same.
That someone is Adrien (Pierre Niney), a young Frenchman who claims to have befriended Frantz during the latter’s pre-war visits to Paris.
Initially Anna and the Hoffmiesters are appalled. Like many of their neighbors they want nothing to do with their former enemies.
But Adrien’s soulful earnestness — and his obvious distress at the loss of Frantz — softens even unforgiving Teutonic hearts. Ere long the Hoffmeisters embrace the stranger, happy to hear his tales of carousing with Frantz in the City of Light.
Anna slowly opens up to this gentle stranger, who despite having been an enemy combatant still seems preferable to the middle-aged burgher who’s been wooing her…a fellow who practically has “future Nazi” stamped on his forehead.
All goes nicely until Adrien, wracked by guilt, confesses that he never knew Frantz before the war, that they only met briefly on a battlefield, and that something awful happened.