Cinema Clips: Phoenix

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Nelly (Nina Hoss), a disfigured Holocaust victim, returns to post-war Berlin in search of her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld). Nelly undergoes facial reconstructive surgery that renders her unrecognizable. When she encounters her husband, he doesn’t know who she is, but does notice a resemblance to his wife, whom he thinks is dead. He conspires with Nelly to have her impersonate his wife so he can be entitled to her inheritance. At face value, director Christian Petzold’s film might sound a little hokey, but it’s anything but. The film is best taken metaphorically, rather than literally. The movie is about Nelly finding out where true loyalty lies within her family and friends, and finding out who truly stood for her in her time of need. A good soul is represented in Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), who brings Nelly to Berlin and tries to protect her. The character of Nelly represents those who survived the Holocaust, embodying the confusion, anger, and sense of betrayal when they returned to everyday life. To watch this film as a straight, realistic drama would be a mistake. It doesn’t work that way. Petzold has made a movie of haunting beauty, especially in the film’s stunning final scene. Nelly is a character that will stay with you long after the movie is over. 


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