Toronto 2014 (world premiere)
San Sebastian 2014
Nelly Lenz is a concentration camp survivor who has been left severely injured with a disfigured face. Following facial reconstruction surgery, she is taken to Berlin by Lene Winter, a social worker for the Jewish Agency. Nelly now begins the search for her husband Johnny. When she finds him, Johnny does not recognise her. Instead, he approaches her with a proposal: since she resembles his wife, whom he believes to be dead, he asks her to help him claim his wife’s considerable inheritance. Nelly agrees, and becomes her own doppelganger – she needs to know if Johnny ever loved her, or if he betrayed her. The more similarities to her dead counterpart she reveals, the more desperate and confusing their relationship becomes.
Starring BARBARA leads Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld. Romance and reconstruction in post World War II Germany from the critically acclaimed director of BARBARA (Berlinale 2012 Best Director) and YELLA (Berlinale 2007 Best Actress).
Both a powerful allegory for post-war regeneration and a rich Hitchcockian tale of mistaken identity, Phoenix once again proves that German filmmaker Christian Petzold and his favorite star, Nina Hoss, are clearly one of the best director-actor duos working in movies today. Like their last collaboration, Barbara, this pared-down, classically helmed period piece uses one woman’s harrowing story to explore Germany’s troubled past, though in this case the setting is WWII and the heroine is a concentration camp survivor returning to Berlin in search of her lost husband. The plot alone would probably make this latest effort worthy enough, but it’s the masterly craftsmanship and performances that reveal Petzold to be at the top of his game, slowly but surely building his narrative towards an absolute knockout of a finale. Why Phoenix wasn’t in Cannes or Venice (no offense, Toronto) is anyone’s guess, as this quietly devastating work deserves to be seen by the widest art house audience possible.
— Jordan Mintzer, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER