REVIEW BY Robyn Kilroy
French Director Francois Ozon brings us, with his latest film Frantz, a melancholic insight into post-war Europe and the heartbreak of those mourning lost loved ones. Based in Germany (for the most part) after World War One, Ozon tells the story of Anna (Paula Beer) a widow bereaving the death of her fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke) who died as a soldier at war. When a mysterious Frenchman, Adrien (Pierre Niney) arrives in the small village, both Anna and Frantz’s parents (Ernst Stotzner and Marie Gruber) begin to learn more and more about the life Frantz had before his death. With this narrative, Ozon sets up a classical melodrama, full of heartbreak and nostalgia.
It is very much obvious when watching this film that it has a strong anti-war sentiment. Through Anna and Adrien and others characters in the film, we see the suffering of those left behind, a generation of people in mourning. Both Anna and Adrien grieve over the death of Frantz and as the audience we can’t help but grieve with them and for the millions of other young men who lost their lives. This anti-war sentiment is also seen in the tense reactions of the German townspeople when the French Adrien arrives. Ozon conveys the ugliness of the intense breed of nationalism that is brought on by war, with the German nationalists disliking the fact that a Frenchman has arrived in their town. Ozon’s feelings towards war and intense nationalism are conveyed through Frantz’s family, with Frantz’s father defending Adrien in a meeting of German nationalists. Ozon also uses intense imagery of war, with Anna hallucinating about wounded war veterans and her dead fiancé. While this anti-war sentiment is strong throughout the film, Ozon refuses to allow it to smother the narrative. The anti-war message instead enhances the heart-breaking story, one that is resurgently relevant is the political climate of today.
An important element of this film is Ozon’s employment of colour to convey the emotions of his characters throughout the film. For the most part, the film is in black and white, however, during flashbacks and in scenes where a memory before the war is triggered, we see the integration of colour, conveying the sense of happiness in these memories of a time before the war. The overall result of this is beautiful, providing us with stunning colour images in contrast to the black and white. In one particular scene, we see Anna and Adrien explore a place where Anna and Frantz used to hike. When Anna tells Adrien about her memories of Frantz in this place, the scene slowly changes to colour, only to be changed back to black and white when Adrien reminds her that Frantz is dead. This use of colour to imitate the emotions invoked by memories brings forth the sense of nostalgia in the film, enhancing the melancholy of these characters who are still suffering from the results of war. Along with this, the contrast between black and white and colour provides the audience with stunning visuals that will grab their attention.
For the most part, Frantz is a classical melodramatic film about the hardships of war. By mainly focusing on the survivors and those left behind, Ozon conveys the sense of loss and despair as these people try to live on after the war, whether that dealing with the loss of a loved one, or trying to live on with the guilt of surviving.