Francois Ozon’s “Frantz” is an old-fashioned movie, in the very best of ways. Shot in eloquent black-and-white (bleeding into soft color in just a few scenes, to indicate the way memory is heightened in our mind’s eye) and set mostly in a small German town in 1919, it’s a simple, moving story about love, loss and storytelling itself.
Anna (lovely newcomer Paula Beer) is a young woman quietly grieving for her fiance Frantz, who was killed by French soldiers during the war. One day, she sees a pale, thin stranger mourning at Frantz’s graveside: Adrien (Pierre Niney, who played the title role in 2014’s “Yves Saint Laurent”), a Frenchman whose connection to Frantz is gradually and carefully revealed.
And I won’t reveal it here (except to say that it wasn’t quite what I was expecting); the pleasure of “Frantz” is in the deliberate way the story is told, by Ozon and by his two main characters, who twist the truth as delicately as the spring breeze shakes the leaves. (We see and hear that breeze, deliciously punctuating a few scenes.) Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “In the House”) plays with the familiar touchpoints of melodrama – love triangles, emotional farewells at railway stations, pretty tears – but touches on something deeper: the price of war, the cost of forgiveness and the way that sometimes we tell lies because the truth can be too deep a wound.
With Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stotzner, Johann Von Bulow, Anton Von Lucke.
Written and directed by: Francois Ozon.
Running time: 115 minutes.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including brief war violence. In German and French, with English subtitles