(director/writer: Christian Petzold; screenwriter: novel by Anna Segher; cinematographer: Hans Fromm; editor: Bettina Boehler; music: Stefan Will; cast: Franz Rogowski (Georg), Paula Beer (Marie),Godehard Giese (Richard), Lilien Batman (Driss), Maryam Zaree (Melissa), Barbara Auer (Architect/frau), Matthias Brandt (Narrator), Sebastian Huelk (Paul), Ronald Kukulies (Heinz); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Florian Koerner vo, Gustorf, Michael Weber; Music Box; 2018-Germany/France-in German and French with English subtitles)

A brilliantly haunting allegorical thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The talented German auteur Christian Petzold (“Phoenix”/”Barbara”) successfully adapts the German-Jewish author Anna Seghers’ 1942 Marseille-set novel, written in 1942 and published in 1944. It’s a brilliantly haunting allegorical thriller. In its intense timeless narrative, it examines questions about having no homeland, identity, loss and trauma for displaced refugees. The director has taken liberties with the source material to existentially blur the time frame from the past to modern times so that the film can be set in either. The idea is to tell how little has changed for some refugees from then to now.During the Nazi occupation of France, the German refugee Georg (Franz Rogowski) assumes the identity of the Parisian writer Georg Weidel, who committed suicide for failing to get published, whose transit papers he is carrying that has a visa to Mexico. Georg leaves the heavily patrolled Nazi military presence of occupied Paris for the free-zone of Marseilles (a port city for those awaiting another destination) and locates himself in a hotel catering to illegals from all over the world, that is carefully watched by the authorities. Georg also has documents of another dead writer, who died from gangrene. At the hotel he befriends that writer’s African immigrant wife Melissa (Maryam Zaree) and her young son Driss (Lilien Batman), who are unaware that Georg has transit papers for her husband Heinz (Ronald Kukulies) they don’t realize is dead after an escape attempt. There’s also a mysterious young woman in town, Marie (Paula Beer), who mistakenly takes Georg for her missing husband, the one he is impersonating, and they fall in love. Matthias Brandt acts as narrator, trying to keep things straight.