One of my favourite German actresses has got to be Nina Hoss. The 39-year-old actress was born in West Germany, her father was a trade unionist and her mother was a stage actress. Radio plays at seven and stage appearances from 14 years old have led on to a film career beginning in 1996. The films I have seen her in are Atomised (2006) where she appeared opposite another great German actress Martina Gedeck, Yella (2007) for which she won two Best Actress Awards, Barbara (2012) set in East Germany in 1980, the German ‘western’ Gold (2013) about settlers in Canada, A Most Wanted Man (2014) which is a tale of contempory intrigue and one of Philip Seymour Hoffman last films, and just recently has appeared in the excellent TV series Homeland as Astrid, Peter Quinn’s German girlfriend who works in the German Embassy in Islamabad. Her latest film Phoenix (2014) is her sixth collaboration with German director Christian Petzold. Premiering at the London Film Festival in October 2014 and released this week we were given an early opportunity to see this outstanding post war melodrama, written and directed by Petzold, at the 2015 Glasgow Film Festival.
June 1945, a car travels towards an American checkpoint. In the car is the driver Lene Winter, a Jewish Agency worker and in the passenger seat is Nelly Lenz her face heavy bandaged who has just been released from a concentration camp and is on her way home to Berlin to have reconstructive facial surgery and hopefully able to pick up her life since being arrested by the Gestapo. The Nazis have killed all her family, and once things settle down, post war, Lene will help Nelly claim her inheritance and assist her passage to Palestine. Having barely recovered from facial surgery, Nelly ignores Lene’s warnings and sets out to find her husband Johnny the love of her life that, by refusing to abandon their marriage, protected her from Nazi persecution for so long. It is a cracking story, which involves a great twist, but I will not spoil it for you only to say the ending is something to saviour.
A dark compelling movie, that brings to mind the very best of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, is really a love story, but one that’s completely different from Mills and Boon. It involves a stubborn, some would say obsessive woman played with a lot of conviction by Hoff, Ronald Zehrfeld, who you may recognise as the doctor in Barbara, plays Johnny her husband, with Nina Kunzendorf as Lene Winter. This movie is a fine example where everything comes together, the acting, the screenplay and the cinematography, to give us a really inspired drama that will grip the viewer from beginning to end. If you get the chance to see this movie – take it - believe me you will not be disappointed.