The main events of World War II have been extensively documented, but unless you were there at the time it’s hard to understate the fallout following the end of the war, which carried on for decades. Much of the finger-pointing and animosity centred around collaboration. The lowest moment in human history, The Holocaust, claimed the lives of millions of innocents, and suspicions of guilt and rumours of betrayal often never died.
Nelly (Nina Hoss) returns to Paris after being liberated from Auschwitz suffering severe facial injuries. She is accompanied by Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), her friend and an employee of the Jewish Agency. As soon as she’s recovered from facial reconstruction surgery, Nelly sets out to find her husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld). Lene warns against it as she believes he betrayed her friend to the Nazis, but Nele needs to discover the truth herself. Believing his wife and her family all to be dead, Johnny doesn’t realise that she’s his wife, but plans to use the likeness to pretend and claim her inheritance.
Phoenix is a tense and complex slow-boiling thriller which blurs the lines between right and wrong, revelling in ambiguity. Christian Petzold once again collaborates with Nina Hoss, and the latter puts in a brilliant performance as the confused and conflicted heroine. In a time of grey areas and uncertainties, Phoenix highlights the struggles faced by those who managed to escape the death camps.
Phoenix is out in cinemas on Friday.