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Phoenix (2014)

PG-13 | | Drama | 24 July 2015 (USA)
2:05 | Trailer

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A disfigured Holocaust survivor sets out to determine if the man she loved betrayed her trust.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nina Kunzendorf ...
Soldat an der Brücke
Michael Maertens ...
Imogen Kogge ...
Felix Römer ...
Valerie Koch ...
Eva Bay ...
Soldat im Club
Nikola Kastner ...
Junge Frau
Max Hopp ...
Der Mann
Mitarbeiterin Zentralstelle Halensee


Nelly Lenz, a Jewish singer, has survived the Nazi concentration camps but at what cost? She is disfigured and has had to undergo facial surgery. Back in what is left of Berlin, accompanied by her faithful friend Lene, she has only one thing in mind: finding Johnny, her musician husband, in the ruins of the city. She wants to know if he still loves her and if he has betrayed her, as Lene claims he has. She does meet him but Johnny does not recognize her. Worse, he asks her to impersonate... Nelly, with a view to grabbing her inheritance. Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief suggestive material | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

24 July 2015 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ave Fénix  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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Did You Know?


The 13th best film of the year according to 'Sight and Sound' magazine's annual critics poll. [Nov. 2015] See more »


She is at the Phoenix bar and sees her husband. He does not recognize her. She runs out home. It is night and pitch dark. As she enters her apartment and her friend asks her if it is all okay, beautiful daylight thru the window. That's bothersome. See more »


Version of Return from the Ashes (1965) See more »


Berlin im Licht
Written by Kurt Weill
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User Reviews

Simple but compelling and beautifully made.
14 November 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Do you recognize me?" -Nelly

Lisbon & Estoril Film Festival #6

Phoenix has been one film that has been going through the fall film festival circuit (it premiered at Toronto and it has been all over the place around Europe), and even though it has gotten fantastic reviews and it was directed by already established director Christian Petzold, the film has received much attention. So I was thrilled when I saw that this film was in the line-up for the festival, I knew little or nothing about it, I hadn't seen any trailers and it seemed as though this one could be the festival's revelation. Still I went in just hoping to find a decent picture.

Phoenix is Directed by Christian Petzold and it stars Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf, Uwe Preuss, Michael Maertens and Valerie Koch.

The war has ended and the survivors are returning home. Are they really lucky that they survived? A woman comes back home, to Berlin, with a disfigured face and a shattered mind. Nelly is going to have her face reconstructed, the doctors ask her what face she wants, maybe of a film start, but Nelly just wants her face back. Nelly just wanted everything to be as it was before the war, she wants her life, her husband, she wants to sing in the coir again, she wants to be able to live one more time. She searches for what's lost, her husband…Johnny. Johnny who might have betrayed Nelly and sent her to a concentration camp. She ultimately finds Johnny alive, working at a cabaret in Berlin. He doesn't recognize her and her heart is broken. But he sees that her new face is similar to his wife's face and he tells the stranger (Nelly, is own wife) that they could both get a lot of money by pretending that she was his wife. Nelly's healing face and broken spirit accept the challenge of impersonating herself, or at least what she once were. Johnny gives her lessons and through these lessons Nelly hopes to become what she wants was, through these lessons she hopes to win his husband back.

Only a few weeks ago Fury was released, a tired, familiar World War II picture with very little to say. An America *beep* Yeah kind of picture with a lot of violence, where the Germans have the depth of the Nazis in Dead Snow and where every single character in that tank was a mere cliché. If you are going to make a World War II picture at least have some respect for your own subject. The fact that this one was a World War II picture made me a little scared, this sub-genre is way too iterant as it seems as though they make these pictures for the explosions. Really? Should you turn such an important subject into a Michael Bay depthless picture? This one though, fortunately, it is not Fury. It pays respect to its subject and it actually has something to say.

Looking back Phoenix is actually an incredibly simple film, that doesn't even take many risks when it comes to narrative. It is simple but undeniably effective. The film is built up quite slowly and to say the truth it never takes many risky, unpredictable paths as what happens is pretty much expected. Still I found the picture to be incredibly compelling on an emotional level. Much of that is due to the fantastic acting by both Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld and because of Christian Petzold approach. An approach that might seem reserved, cold, too simple to some but I found it to be rich and absorbing. The film is like a big countdown, a crescendo, to a huge emotional climax that's simple and expected and still it struck me quite hard.

Nina Hoss continues to be the target of Christian Petzold's attention and she continues to show why she's worthy of his attention and of the attention of many others. She has already been this year in Anton Corbijn's fantastic A Most Wanted Man delivering a strong performance. I really hope to see more from her in the future because she's got some talent. She carries this picture, she doesn't only give the face to the character, she becomes the character, she shine.

I can see many being upset with the fact that the film doesn't make many bold moves and it ultimately takes the path that you expected it to take. Still it is beautifully constructed and crafted, the acting is excellent (especially from Nina Hoss, who was supposed to be present but didn't make it), it's emotionally complex and rich and it ultimately delivers the goods with a strong climax that will likely wreck you.


14 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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