Review: Transit confirms Christian Petzolds reputation as an essential German filmmaker


TRANSIT (Christian Petzold). 101 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (November 9). See listing. Rating: NNNN

Christian Petzold has become known for gripping films in which characters struggle over their identities and allegiances. In Barbara, an East German doctor has to decide whether to take the risk of crossing the border to the west. In Phoenix, Holocaust survivor Nelly, post-plastic-surgery to her face, returns to confront the husband who turned her in to the Nazis, not sure whether she wants to be recognized. These films have stories that power along in ways that make the tensions palpable.

Transit, Petzolds moody meditation on exile and rootlessness, may lack the narrative drive of the brilliant Phoenix, but its unsettling and powerful nevertheless.

Georg (Franz Rogowski, a dead ringer for Joaquin Phoenix) is drifting in an undocumented state when he gets the chance to impersonate an author who possesses documents and the chance for a transit pass from Marseille to Mexico. Whether hell get to use them and an enigmatic woman (Paula Beer) who keeps crossing his path are the questions that keep viewers guessing.

Petzold, with Anna Segherss WWII-set novel as source material, shows uncommon compassion in the ways he evokes emigres random relationships, their shame and their terror. As Georg awaits a meeting with immigration bureaucrats, he engages in heartbreaking conversations with other stateless people that expertly evoke their quiet desperations.

But its the atmosphere of the picture that is so startling. The film is set in Marseille, for sure, but you dont know exactly what era. It looks like present-day France but digital media dont exist. The spectre of fascism looms over everything making it seem like the Nazi era as sirens scream and illegals are rounded up in the background as Georg keeps trying to game the system.

The result is a unique, off-kilter cinematic experience, cementing Petzolds reputation as one of Germanys most essential filmmakers.



Stay In The Know with Now Toronto

Be the first to know about new and exclusive content