German troops are fast approaching Paris. Georg, a German refugee, escapes to Marseille in the nick of time. In his luggage, he carries the documents of an author, Weidel, who has taken his own life in fear of his persecutors. Those documents include a manuscript, letters and visa assurance from the Mexican embassy. Everything changes when Georg falls in love with the mysterious Marie. Is it devotion or calculation that has led her to share her life with a doctor, Richard, before journeying on in search of her husband? He's said to have surfaced in Marseille in possession of a Mexican visa for him and his wife.Written by
When the train arrives in Marseille, the actor playing Heinz is very clearly breathing, his chest and Adam's apple rise and fall with each breath in the lengthy closeup, even though the character is dead. See more »
Their eyes met. For a long moment they looked at each other. Then they lowered their eyes. He knew what everyone was talking about and let go: It was the shame. They were ashamed. Shamed terribly.
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Christian Petzold's latest film will leave you transfixrd from start to finish
"Transit" (2018 release from Germany; 101 min.) brings the story of Georg. As the movie opens, Georg and another German guy meet up at a cafe in Paris. The guy asks Georg to drop off two letters at an acquaintance's apartment, a writer named Weidel. When Georg arrives at the apartment, it turns out Weidel committed suicide the day before. In the ensuing confusion, Georg takes Weidel's travel documents and latest manuscript. Meanwhile, Paris is getting overrun by the fascists, and Georg manages to slip out by train to Marseille... At this point we are not even 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest film from German director Christian Petzold, whose prior films include The State I'm In, Gespenster, Yella, Barbara, and Phoenix, just to name those, and all of them brilliant. Frankly, Petzold is one of the very best European directors of this generation, period. Every single new film of his is an event, a milestone. Here he takes the 1944 novel of the same name by Anna Seghers, and transposes it to the big screen, but with one major change: the setting is today's France. Yes, a 1944 WWII tale dealing with visas and travel documents, refugees, and cleansing of undesirables, is set in this day and age, where one can argue these very elements also exist (albeit in slightly different ways). Another striking difference: Nina Hoss, who has played the female lead in every single Petzold movie since 2007's Yella, is noticeably absent here. The female lead in "Transit" is played by Paula Beer, a German up-and-coming actress whom we saw just a few months back in "Never Look Away". But even more importantly is the male lead performance by Franz Rogowski, whom I was not familiar with. His nuanced performance as the tormented refugee is commanding. Not to mention that he appears in virtually every single frame of the movie. Bottom line: "Transit" left me transfixed from start to finish, and is a great addition to Petzold's already impressive body of work.
"Transit" premiered at last year's Berlin film festival, and now a year later finally made its way to my art-house theater in Cincinnati. Better late than never. The Saturday early evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so (about 10 people), which is a darn shame. If you are in the mood for a top notch quality foreign film dealing with issues that were relevant in 1944 and remain so today, and coincidentally directed by one of the best in the business, I'd readily suggest you check out "Transit", be it in the theater (if you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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