François Ozon’s film “Frantz” is based on Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 “Broken Lullaby.” Set in a German town, a mystery occurs when a Frenchman visits the symbolic grave of a German soldier killed in World War I. He was Frantz, the fiancé of Anna (Paula Beer), who is still grieving about her loss.
She becomes curious and meets the visitor, Adrien (Pierre Niney), who recounts a friendship with Frantz, seen in flashbacks and played by Anton von Lucke, prior to the war. (Could it have been a gay one?) The story grows more complicated, as Adrien meets Frantz’s devastated parents and romantic impulses spring between him and Anna. Of course, we may suspect that all is not as it seems.
The film is engrossing, but a rather fanciful ending doesn’t seem convincing. Yet on balance “Frantz” impresses and belongs to the category of anti-war films that portray soldiers as victims no matter on which side they are fighting.
The film is rich in detail and the atmosphere of a small German town still pained by the losses from the war. Resentments abound against the French visitor. A moving portrait emerges of Frantz’s parents, the father an angry doctor bitter about the loss of his son, the mother a sympathetic woman who has a leveling influence.
One’s emotions are stirred in various respects, and above all, we become involved in the developing friendship between Adrien and Anna. But always lurking beneath it all is the film’s anti-war posture, a position that never goes out of style given the horrors that followed World War I and now loom in the new circumstances of the present. A Music Box Films release. Reviewed March 15, 2017.