In the aftermath of WWII, Nelly, a Jewish survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, horribly disfigured from a bullet wound in her face, undergoes a series of facial reconstruction surgeries and decides to find her husband Johnny who works at the Phoenix club in Berlin. Undoubtedly, Nelly is stunning, yet, her new self is beyond recognition, so Johnny, the man who may have betrayed her to the Nazis, will never imagine that the woman in front of him who bears an uncomfortable and unsettling resemblance to his late wife, is indeed her. Without delay, and with the intention to collect the deceased's inheritance, Nelly will go along with Johnny's plot and she will impersonate the dead woman, giving the performance of a lifetime before friends and relatives in a complex game of deceit, duplicity, and ultimately, seduction. In the end, during this masquerade, as the fragile and broken Nelly tries to find out whether Johnny betrayed her or not, she will have to dig deep into her wounded ...Written by
Hubert Monteilhet's novel has been filmed three times I saw two of them. The 1960's Return From The Ashes and this one, Phoenix (2014) - the one I haven't seen is a TV version from the 1980's Le retour d'Elisabeth Wolff, but now I really want to see it. Phoenix is a moody, painful journey to a rebirth. Nina Hoss is lovely as the survivor, Ronald Zehofeld plays the husband, object of her obsession. He's an interesting actor, a mix between Benicio del Toro and the young Orson Welles. Their scenes together have a realistic, tangible suspense. But Christian Petzold, the director of Jerichow (2008), gives the whole film a severe pace and tone, the 1964 version has a sharp, sophisticated script by Julius J Epstein with titles like Casablanca to his credit and J Lee Thompson at the helm, Thompson directed films like The Guns Of Navarone, Cape Fear and What A Way To Go. So his version, Return From The Ashes, is a whole other experience, at time it's even funny. With a superlative international cast cast, Maximilian Schell, Ingrid Thulin and Samantha Eggar - So one can see both films as it they weren't even related.
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