Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. France/Germany, 2016. Mandarin Films, X-Filme Creative Pool, FOZ, Mars Films, France 2 Cinema, Films Distribution, Universal Pictures International, Canal+, Cine@, France Televisions, Sofica Manon 6, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Deutscher Filmforderfonds, Filmforderungsanstalt, Mitteldeutsche Medienforderung, FD Production. Screenplay by Francois Ozon, in collaboration with Philippe Piazzo, based on the movie Broken Lullaby by Ernst Lubitsch, Reginald Berkeley, Samson Raphaelson, Ernest Vajda, and the play The Man I Killed by Maurice Rostand. Cinematography by Pascal Marti. Produced by Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer, Stefan Arndt, Uwe Schott. Music by Philippe Rombi. Production Design by Michel Barthelemy. Costume Design by Pascaline Chavanne. Film Editing by Laure Gardette. Toronto International Film Festival 2016.
A year after the end of the first World War, a Frenchman (a romantically endearing Pierre Niney) comes to a small German town whose citizens are not in the least bit pleased to see him. Consulting the local doctor on a personal matter, he is immediately sent packing when the physician discovers that his visitor fought for the army that killed his son Frantz. The young woman who was to marry Frantz and has been living with the doctor and his wife since their son died on the battlefield is curious as to why Niney is there and seeks him out. He tells her that he knew her fiance in Paris before the war and had come to meet his parents and they, upon discovering this connection, are overjoyed to put their political feelings aside and welcome him into their home. The friendship that is struck up between these four characters is set against the resentment that continues in the village before the French newcomer tells Anna the real reason he has come, one which strikes at the very core of the horror of human conflict. Beautifully photographed in inky monochrome (with the odd moment of full colour), this sumptuous tale by Francois Ozon, remade from a 1932 Lubitsch film starring Lionel Barrymore, is a treasure trove of rewards, from the aesthetic pleasures of the wardrobe and set design to the elegant performances by actors un-self-consciously bringing an old fashioned sense of melodrama to the modern screen. Emotionally poignant and frequently very moving, it is the best film to come from the usually much more naughty Francois Ozon in a very long time, here finding a way to be at his most experimental by making something much more conventional than he ever has before.