Stars: Franz Rogowski, Paula Beer, Godehard Giese, Lilien Batman
German writer-director Petzold’s adaptation of Anna Seghers’ 1942 wartime novel transposes the story to a modern day setting but, audaciously, the plot details remains broadly unchanged. Georg (Rogowski) is a German Jewish radio operator fleeing occupied Paris to make his way to Marseilles where he hopes to arrange passage out of Europe before German troops arrive. He has come into possession of papers belonging to a writer Weidl who killed himself in Paris. Wishing to do the right thing he plans to take Weidl’s papers back to the Marseilles’ Mexican Embassy where they were issued, but when he arrives Georg is mistaken for the writer. After a moment’s hesitation he goes along with the pretence in order to claim Weidl’s transit papers and get out of France. While waiting for passage out, Georg encounters a selection of similarly-placed refugees stuck in this purgatorial state, including Weidl’s beautiful wife Marie (Beer) who believes her husband is still alive. The theme of displaced peoples in search of sanctuary feels all too relevant, but Petzold eschews didacticism in favour of a disorientating depiction of the weightless, transitory state of the refugees who drift through Marseilles like ghosts. The story is saved from mere abstraction by a grounded but memorably haunting turn from star-to-be (and Joaquin Phoenix-lookalike) Rogowski, that is both restrained and disarmingly open in equal measure.