Petzold’s riveting film follows Nelly (Nina Hoss), a concentration camp survivor returning to Berlin in search of Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the husband she still loves, who may or may not have betrayed her to the Nazis. Set in the period immediately following the war that gave rise to the Trümmerfilm (literally “rubble film”)—or “After the Camp” as Petzold puts it—Phoenix is an engrossing reflection on the postwar reconstruction of identity (as the title suggests, although it also turns out to be the name of the bar where she finds Johnny) couched as a noirish thriller of mistaken identity. Co-written with the late Harun Farocki, it is a precisely and exquisitely crafted chamber piece, resonant and gripping, softly building up to a stunning finale.
Preceded by: Where Are You, Christian Petzold? Christian Petzold, Germany/France, 2017, 23m German with English subtitles With fellow filmmaker and longtime interlocutor Christoph Hochhäusler, Petzold examines in detail a set of stills from a sequence in Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man, ruminating on the nature of cinematic narration, and offering a subtle tribute to his late mentor and friend Harun Farocki.