GoetheKino|GoetheCine- Filmreihe Christian Petzold
Director: Christian Petzold
98 min, GErmany 2013/14
Soon after the end of World War II, the Jewish woman Nelly returns to Germany, her face marked by the severe injuries she suffered in a concentration camp. Her ex-husband Johnny is not aware that she has survived. Nelly searches for him, despite the fact he once betrayed her to the Nazis – or, at least, her friend Lena is convinced he did. Johnny does not recognise her; he only notices a considerable similarity, and he decides to take advantage of it. Nelly is to play the part of his wife, so he can secure the assets of the woman he believes to be dead. Phoenix tells the story of a homecoming that is no longer possible and an identity lost forever.
“Is it possible to mend the deep, nihilistic rift that the Nazis and the Germans created and reconstruct something – feelings, love, mercy, compassion, life? PHOENIX tells the story of a woman who refuses to see that ‘no story, no song, no poem’, that no love can be possible anymore.” (Christian Petzold) The vain attempt to recover the past through physical imitation inevitably leads to the motif of the doppelganger, which has had a long tradition in German culture since the Romantic era. Petzold invokes Fritz Lang, who made one of the most famous doppelganger films in German cinematic history: METROPOLIS with the “mock” Maria. She is a kind of forerunner of Nelly, presumed dead, and her newly-created lookalike from Johnny’s perspective. After her facial reconstruction, Nelly asks her friend: “Would you recognize me?” A question that is much more difficult to answer would be: Has the person who Nelly once was also been restored with her former appearance?