By Debbie Elicksen.
A screenplay that was written (co-written by Harun Farocki) and directed by Christian Petzold, Phoenix (2014) is a German film about a woman, whose life has seen much tragedy and betrayal — of her country, husband, and family and she finds a way to rise above it.
Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss) had been interned and disfigured in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. At the war’s end, she sets out to find her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld). She learns he is still alive. But he is not the man she thought he was, and it would take her time to learn that he is a traitor and a gold digger.
When Johnny first sees Nelly, he doesn’t realize who she is, although acknowledges she looks a lot like (who he think is) his dead wife. Because Nelly inherited all of her family’s wealth after they were killed in the concentration camps, Johnny sees an opportunity. He sets up a scheme to get Nelly’s family money by using her lookalike to get it. She goes along with it, still thinking that when Johnny realizes who she is, he will give up his scheme and rejoice in their reunion. That doesn’t work out so well and she sees that the rest of his family have also embraced greed. Nelly devises a scheme of her own and it’s called payback.
Phoenix won Best Foreign Language Film for Critics Associations in Australia, Central Ohio, Kansas City, North Carolina, San Sebastian, Seattle, and Toronto. The ending is five stars. The rest of the film is three stars.