Set in 1919 Germany, ‘Frantz’, tells the story of a fiancé mourning the death of her husband to be who was a casualty of World War I. When she spots a French stranger visiting his grave she begins to bond with him as they both share a connection to the fallen solider Frantz.
At first this narrative is a rather simple one, we see a family mourning the loss of a son & fiancé. It doesn’t initially grab your attention, that is until the arrival of this mysterious Frenchman, Adrien. Thankfully it doesn’t take very long for his arrival to occur. From this point on the story becomes quite fascinating. The mystery of how Adrien knew Frantz is constantly in the forefront of your mind and you’ll find yourself doubting if all is as it seems. Once the truth is revealed the film looses a bit of it’s intrigue. The narrative progresses further but without the level of engagement present in the first two thirds of the film the final third just isn’t as good. There are of course some interesting elements included due to the consequences of the story but it is lacking in the central mystery that made the bulk of the film so entertaining. As a result the film does every so slightly begin to feel long.
However, filling this run time are some very good performances which makes for enjoyable viewing. Pierre Niney & Paula Beer lead the cast and they present the character dynamic in an accomplished manner. They showcase the effects of war on a younger generation and the narrative allows them to really engage with this aspect of their performances. The rest of the performers do equally as well contributing to a strong cast overall. Acting aside director François Ozon uses other techniques to tell his story too, most noticeably the use of colour. For the majority of the time the film plays out in black & white but every so often he would transition the film into colour. I thought these transitions were achieved with skill but I wasn’t so certain on why they occurred. I thought that they neither detracted or added to the film’s quality. However I did always find myself looking forward to the next moments of colour. Furthermore, it also offers some potential for discussion which is always a positive.
‘Frantz’ succeeds in creating a compelling mystery drama. Watching the character dynamics unfold was riveting so it is a shame when this aspect ceases and the narrative continues. Nonetheless, with strong performances and interesting themes running through the entirety of the film it’s worth the attention of any film fan. No doubt the speculative use of colour will also inspire much discussion in this intriguing but also touching post war time drama.
Rating – 7/10
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