In a small German town, in the aftermath of WWI, young Anna mourns her fiancé Frantz who died in the trenches. One day a French soldier, Adrien (Pierre Niney, surely the leading French screen actor of his generation), arrives and lays flowers at Frantz’s grave. In the war-battered community passions run high at the effrontery of the Frenchman. Among those most affected is Anna, who decides to get to know the sad young stranger. As she draws him out about his pre-war friendship with Frantz in Paris, our picture of their generation struggling to recover after the betrayals of war deepens and takes unexpected turns.
Expanding on the plot of a little remembered Lubitsch film from 1932, shooting on 35mm and largely in black and white, director François Ozon couches his elegiac tale in the formal poise of an earlier era’s ‘quality’ historical drama. There’s one distinctive difference: as always for Ozon, the film’s title notwithstanding, it is the complex journey of the female protagonist that most engages him. Tracing Anna’s return to the world of the living, actress Paula Beer is a revelation.
“Black-and-white cinematography from Pascal Martireflects the post-World War I setting, but there’s clarity in these stunning images that was difficult to achieve in the early days of cinema. Star Pierre Niney is matinee-idolhandsome – with talent to match – and newcomer Paula Beer shows real promise so early in her career. But despite all the beauty visible on screen, what’s most impressive about Frantz is its script from Ozon and Philippe Piazzo. This is Ozon’s most mature film to date, featuring real emotions and profound themes in an elegant, mirrored structure.”— Kimber Myers, The Playlist