Three actresses at different stages of their career. One from before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, one popular star of today known throughout the country and a young girl longing to attend a drama conservatory.
Petzold infuses TRANSIT with a melodramatic poignancy that stoutly holds its own concomitant with its allegorical connotation and metaphorical expression
The final chapter of Christian Petzold's "Love in Times of Oppressive Systems" trilogy, after BARBARA (2012) and PHOENIX (2014), both scripted by Petzold and the late German filmmaker/critic Harun Farocki (1944-2014), TRANSIT is an adaptation of Anna Seghers' Nazi-escaping novel and has a daring conceit that challenges the status quo of cinematic transposition.
On the face of it, the befogging disjunction between its narrative and temporality (an unspecified contemporary context) persists throughout the whole story, our protagonist is Georg (Rogowski), a young German refugee in France, who flees from Paris to Marseille, assumes the identity of a deceased writer of certain cachet, whose recent suicide hasn't yet been circulated, to secure a ticket to embark on an ocean-liner, destination Mexico. But in Marseille, he meets the dead writer's wife Marie (Beer), who relentlessly looks for her husband. Georg falls for her and also manages to get her a ticket without revealing his ulterior scheme, but their quirk of fate is far crueler than the truth itself.
Right out the box, audience will be fully aware that the story is not set in WWII but current times, Georg is obviously not running away from Nazis (reckoning that he gets the wind of Germans are coming), and a double take suggests he ought to be an illegal immigrant who tries to lay low and pulls out all stops to leave the Continent. However, curiously and diligently Petzold effaces any trace of modern-day trappings (no cellphone, television, or computer, signs of today's technology), what we are granted to see in lieu are manuscripts, trains, a flashlight, footballs, a broken radio, nondescript hotel rooms, ocean liners, taxis, embassies, etc., all have been well existed in the WWII period, as if he conspiratorially intimates that what we see is actually what happened during that time, only, in the film, those things are presented in an unmistakable milieu of our reality. Which makes one wonder, is this a new approach of re-imagination? Faithfully complying with the source material's time-line and story, then put it under the life as we know it without upgrading all its paraphernalia, only subtracting any anachronistic items, therefore, the plot doubly serves as a paralleled allegory, past horror is not so far from being repeated, time and again.
Relative to its innovative and sagacious leitmotif, Petzold's narratological disposition is unfortunately less impressive (abruptly killing off secondary characters for the shocking effect is blasé), dutifully crossing the t's and dotting the i's of the monotonous dilemma (a tentative father figure fell by the wayside in a transient sojourn, and an eleventh hour cop-out that becomes a blessing in disguise), although Franz Rogowski comports himself particularly striking with a searing dignity and a tormented reluctance written all over his face, and Paula Beer, often exudes an entrancing restraint and sophistication that is so incongruous with her tender age, comes into her own in the latter stage of the story with a difference, whose seesawing allegiance between three men, her husband, Georg and Richard (Giese), a doctor of her fallback position, keeps us dangling in a heartbeat. Even without a mind-blowing cadenza like he did in PHOENIX, to induce frisson, nonetheless, Petzold infuses TRANSIT with a melodramatic poignancy that stoutly holds its own concomitant with its allegorical connotation and metaphorical expression.
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