DRAMA; 1hr 38min (German with subtitles)

STARRING: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld

Double act: Hoss (with Zehrfeld)

For shell-shocked Jewish concentration-camp survivor Nelly (Hoss), facial surgery can't heal the emptiness of loss. Before the war, Nelly was a singer and her husband, Johnny (Zehrfeld), a pianist. Now her family is dead and Nelly is a fragile shell in director Christian Petzold's inky, transfixing mystery.


Fragile but not completely defeated. Suspecting that Johnny denounced her to the Nazis, Nelly tracks him down in the divey Berlin club where he works. Bizarrely (and presumably because Nelly is intrinsically so damaged), while he notes the resemblance to his late wife, Johnny has no idea it is actually her. Instead, he proposes that this unknown woman pose as Nelly in order to claim Nelly's considerable inheritance.


For all his coarse charm, Johnny is a blatant bad egg. Nelly, who either still loves him, doesn't trust him, or both, agrees to the self-sabotaging charade, anyway, and Hoss, who has a face to get lost in, is piteous as a barely living ghost. A phoenix is a mythical bird that rises from ashes (and the name of Johnny's club). Working once again with Hoss and Zehrfeld, Barbara director Petzold never lets slip whether Nelly will succeed in doing the same.