15 August 2019, The Tablet

A flight from fascism


A flight from fascism

Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski in Transit
Photo: Artificial Eye

 

Transit
Director: Christian Petzold

The German writer-director Christian Petzold has quietly become a master of the taut psychodrama in which the personal and the political overlap, to disorienting effect. His previous outing, Phoenix (2014), is maybe the greatest film of this decade, a haunted post-Holocaust romance set in Berlin and animated by the ghost of Vertigo. His new one, Transit, doesn’t pack the same emotional clout – I’m not sure it could have – but it ripples with the tension and moral unease he has made his speciality. 

Based on Anna Seghers’ 1944 novel it concerns the plight of refugees on the run from a fascist invader. It opens in Paris but quickly switches to Marseilles, where desperate souls scramble for exit visas and letters of transit, in constant fear of night raids by the police. One such is Georg (Franz Rogowski), who almost by accident borrows the identity of a celebrated writer, recently dead by his own hand.

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