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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.



(screenplay), | 1 more credit »
3,716 ( 349)
15 wins & 27 nominations. See more awards »



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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?


Adapted from "Le Retour des cendres / Return from the ashes" (1961) by Hubert Monteilhet. 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 »


Night and Day
Written by Cole Porter
(from musical play "The Gay divorce", 1932)
See more »

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User Reviews

The plot is thin, goes nowhere, and depends on one man's stupidity far too much
4 September 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Phoenix (2015)

What a huge bore. Much of the time.

I mean, so so beautifully filmed in a restrained, slightly nostalgic palette, yes. And the basic idea is ominous and creepy enough to start a good plot. It also starts with some great (anachronistic) Miles Davis inspired minimal jazz and a chilling army checkpoint confrontation. But from there it goes slowly.

First there is a man who thinks he can cash in on his wife's inheritance. He thinks she's dead, but finds a new woman in town who looks just like her and so he's going to pretend it's his wife. Oh, but wait, it really is his wife! But he doesn't recognize her because of severe war injuries.

This all unfolds pretty quickly—it's not a spoiler—but what happens next is, well, not much, in terms of plot! That is, there is a plodding progression as the two go through with the plan. The woman (played very well by Nina Hoss) understands all (she knows it's him) and the man is such a blind fool you can't buy it. I couldn't, my wife couldn't. I heard some people in the audience gasp at the end so I guess they went along with the ruse.

There are some other elements that start to charge the movie with politics. The woman, was in a concentration camp, which is where she was disfigured. And another woman helping her is setting up a new life for her in Palestine (this is right before the founding of Israel). Oh, but wait, the leading woman turns out to not be Jewish after all--or that is her claim, and we are not sure of the truth of it.

And so some bigger issues lurk--the various ways Germans and Jews dealt with being German, and the horrors of the war, and now what? Ignore? Leave? Demand justice? Try to accept the complacence of others? Become complacent.

This movie really does not quite go these places. It successfully pulls off only the one thing, the grand trick of two people pretending, sort of, to be a couple for the inheritance. The other stuff is what matters, and it's given superficial treatment.

You can see the movie for Hoss's performance, which takes a couple of turns. Or for the period set design, which is great. In all it's a constrained movie physically, with a small cast and interior sets in most cases. And so the psychology and the suspense are meant to be sufficient, which they are not. Another (very different) end-of-WWII movie that works with similar restraint is last year's much more compelling "Diplomatie."

Director/writer Christian Petzold has a following, and is a significant contemporary force on the German scene. But for a starting point with him, I'd skip this one. Try "Barbara." Or any of his others, which can be magical.

16 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Johnny couldn't be that stupid Nobbsy
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