Never one to play it safe, François Ozon (The New Girlfriend, 8 Women, Potiche) resists labelling yet again with this striking adaptation, or rather reimagining of one of Ernst Lubitsch’s (The Shop Around the Corner, Heaven Can Wait) lesser known dramas – the 1932 Broken Lullaby, itself an adaptation of a play by Maurice Rostand.
The largely black and white Frantz takes place in 1919, when a young woman Anna (Paula Beer) discovers the mysterious Adrien (Pierre Niney – Yves Saint Laurent) laying flowers at her eponymous fiancé’s grave in a small German town. Adrien claims to be Frantz’s friend from his student days in Paris before the war and, moved by his connection to her lost love, Anna introduces him to her late fiancé’s parents. Initially resistant to Frantz as a Frenchman and therefore technically their enemy, they nevertheless come to embrace this charming young man, finding solace in his presence.
The film’s inspired departure from the source material sees the focus and perspective shift from Adrien to Anna, resulting in an entirely original second half. It’s here we find ourselves in distinctly Ozonian territory, exploring themes of alienation and grief and adding newcomer Paula Beer to the long line of immensely talented women Ozon has directed.