A melancholy thriller of love and limbo, the latest film from director Christian Petzold (Barbara, Phoenix) expertly blends historical fact with contemporary milieux in its tale of a German Jew who flees to Marseille.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
Set in a present-day Marseille occupied by phantoms from a wartime past, Transit is Christian Petzold’s follow-up to his sublime period pieces Barbara and Phoenix. Echoes of Casablanca, Kafka and Hitchcock reverberate around this coolly existential love story, which is also very much its own, unique thing: a haunting daylight noir whose characters, refugees seeking safe passage from a fascist threat, bewitch from the first frame to the last. — Tim Wong
“In Petzold’s adaptation [of Anna Seghers’ 1944 novel]… a Jewish audio technician named Georg (Franz Rogowski) assumes the identity of a recently deceased communist author after accepting a job to deliver his personal effects to the Mexican Consulate in Marseille. Though still [referencing] World War II, Transit draws plain but potent parallels with the ongoing European refugee crises, not to mention the more unsettling rise of neo-Nazism. Armed with the dead author’s transit papers, Georg finds his escape plan getting complicated when he crosses paths (and slowly falls in love) with his surrogate’s widowed wife (Paula Beer, looking uncannily like the director’s longtime muse Nina Hoss), whose mysterious dealings lead him further into a web of false identities and unrequited romance. Shooting with customary economy, Petzold takes full advantage of the story’s genre machinations, chiseling the melodramatic gestures that punctuated his previous triumph, Phoenix, into a taut thriller whose incongruous narrative elements only accentuate the film’s timelessly tragic arc.” — Jordan Cronk, Film Comment