Tuesday, October 19

Phoenix (2015) – #GerCin2015 Review

*Estimated Read Time: 4 mins

I want to look like I used to.” — Nelly Lenz

Writer-director Christian Petzold has a different take on the philosophical meaning of Phoenix, mythical bird who rises from ashes and soars high to the sky bringing fire that burns it as its new beauty. It might look like an allegory initially, but as it goes, Phoenix spawns something more than only an intense and breathtaking identity drama.

In this post-World War drama, the allegorical phoenix lying in Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss)—a former cabaret singer and a holocaust survivor whose life has been terminated by the horror of war. Brought back to Berlin by fellow Jewish, Lene (Kunzendorf) to reclaim her inheritance before fleeing to Haifa, Nelly seemingly has an agenda—to reconcile with her husband, Johnny (Zehrfeld), who were arrested two days before she was.

Bullet to her face has disfigured her, therefore, she takes a surgeon to make her “look like she used to.” But, she never looks the same. The phoenix tries to rise from ashes, but she can only crawls. 

Nelly never intends to take revenge upon anyone, she only wants to unravel what she hasn’t been able to unravel prior to the Auschwitz. The thing is, when she finally confirms that her husband’s still alive and she meets him while working at a cafe named Phoenix, Johnny doesn’t recognize her although he acknowledges that she resembles his wife—which truly is: Nelly herself.

Johnny has his own agenda to claim Nelly’s inheritance, so she asked, Nelly—now called Esther—to commit a fraud. Nelly is asked to impersonate Johnny’s late wife—from the way she speaks, she walks, she dresses, et al. So, basically, Nelly pretends to be herself at its true core. The phoenix rises only to pretend she wasn’t burnt.

There you got a (sorry) WTF moment where being you is wrong for you, but you cannot do anything to really be you and that makes you feel jealous of you. That. Sucks.

As I mentioned previously, Phoenix is an identity drama at its core. And, Nina Hoss’ performance convincingly leads audience to believe that ‘identity’ really is something less personal, but rather a judgement from others. Hoss’ fragile leading performance shows the frustration, doubt, and anguish engulf the phoenix, right before soaring to the sky. Zehrfeld as a half-guilty, half-ashamed husband is a bit ambiguous but that’s an ultimate catalyst to create Nelly’s persona.

Started off slowly and less convincingly, Phoenix ends up being a breathtaking drama whose intensity gets even grimmer than its pile of twist. To boldly say, there’s actually not many things happen on-screen, but the story never lacks of depth. Petzold carefully build atmosphere to every key points presented in a very slow pace creating a very mirthless tale.

Phoenix concludes with a very heart-wrenching finale—truly with a song and a revelation. Predictable from the middle it is, but the aftermath of the ambiguity lingers long after the movie ends. The phoenix soars eventually, not to the sky but to the ocean.

Phoenix (2015)

Drama Written & Directed by: Christian Petzold loosely based on a novel by Hubert Monteilhet Starred by: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf Runtime: 98 mins Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief suggestive material

Image Courtesy: IMDb | Official Site

Penulis sekaligus sutradara Christian Petzold punya visi tersendiri tentang Phoenix, burung mitos yang bangkit dari abu dan terbang menyala-nyala di angkasa. Sedikit nampak seperti sebuah allegory awalnya, tapi ternyata, Phoenix menelurkan berbagai hal yang lebih intens dan mencengangkan daripada sekedar drama tentang identitas.

Dalam drama Perang Dunia ini, sang phoenix adalah Nelly Lenz (Hoss)—mantan penyanyi kabaret sekaligus penyintas holocaust. Kembali ke Berlin bersama rekan Jewish-nya, Lene (Kunzendorf), ia berniat mengklaim warisannya untuk start over. Namun, Nelly nampaknya punya agenda sendiri—menemukan suaminya, Johnny (Zehrefeld).

Wajah Nelly rusak berat pasca kamp konsentrasi, karenanya dia melakukan bedah plastik agar ia “terlihat seperti dia yang dulu.” Tapi ia tak pernah terlihat sama lagi. Sang phoenix mencoba bangkit, tapi dia hanya bisa merangkak.

Nelly tak punya tujuan balas dendam atau apapun, ia hanya ingin mengungkap yang tak terungkapkan. Masalahnya, ketika ia menemukan suaminya, sang suami justru tak mengenalinya—dan justru menganggapnya mirip dengan sang istri—yang tidak lain dan tidak bukan, adalah Nelly sendiri.

Johnny punya agendanya sendiri, ia justru ingin mengklaim warisan istri yang dikiranya sudah meninggal. Karena itu, dia meminta tolong Nelly—sekarang, Esther—untuk berpura-pura menjadi istrinya dengan imbalan separuh warisannya.

Di situlah WTF moment-nya, ketika menjadi diri sendiri terasa sangat salah padahal hanya itu yang bisa dilakukan. Sang phoenix bangkit namun ia hanya berpura-pura bangkit.

Phoenix memang sebuah drama identitas yang mendarah daging. Penampilan Nina Hoss berhasil meyakinkan saya kalau identitas bukanlah hal yang personal, melainkan label. Hoss sukses menampilkan bagaimana rasa frustasi, keraguan, dan kesedihan menelan sang phoenix hidu-hidup. Di sisi lain, Zehrfeld sebagai suami yang setengah malu namun setengah merasa bersalah mampu menghadirkan ambiguitas yang mengkatalisasi persona Nelly.

Dimulai dengan sangat pelan, Phoenix berujung menjadi drama yang sangat intens dengan berbagai twist. Sejatinya, plotnya tipis, tapi tak pernah kekurangan ‘kedalaman’. Petzfold dengan rapi membangun atmosfer dengan pace lambat namun efektif.

Phoenix diakhiri dengan finale yang memilukan—dengan lagu dan suatu pengungkapan. Mudah ditebak sedari pertengahan, tapi efeknya masih terasa lama setelah filmnya usai. Sang phoenix terbang menyala-nyala, tanpa ada yang tahu.

This Phoenix review is written by Paskalis Damar. Review Phoenix ini diterjemahkan ke dalam Bahasa Indonesia juga oleh Paskalis Damar.


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