First, I’d like to begin with a little bit of background on why I am writing this. I’ve wanted to write movie reviews for a while now - not in the sense that I think I’m important to listen to, but simply as another common voice on particular movies. Horror is generally my favorite. Gripping psychological terror trips. I’m not sure what draws me to it exactly, but I’ve always loved horror. Perhaps there is something that makes you feel more alive when you’ve experienced fright. I live up the street from the Clinton Street Theater, which is where I saw Night of the Living Dead in 2004.
Phoenix is not a horror movie. However, it is suspenseful and it has a surprising twist. It is a plotline reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, but only remotely. The setting is post-WW2 Germany. The protagonist is a concentration camp survivor who undergoes reconstructive facial surgery - her name is Nelly. As she heals, she seeks out her husband, whom she believes survived the war.
It is revealed that Nelly had been arrested suddenly and sent to a death camp. There is a sense of duplicitous behavior amongst her peers, even her husband. When the two meet again, he does not believe that Nelly is his real wife and she tells him that her name is Esther. He hatches a plot to obtain Nelly’s inheritance, training “Esther” how to be, act and write like Nelly. Perhaps she already knew too well how to be herself.
The film is aptly named. I was apprehensive about it, but I am glad I went to go see it. The subsurface topic that struck me was something of a similar vein I’ve come across from another writer. Germans had significant dilemmas after the war, certainly their behavior during the war and the reality afterwards were at great conflict. This plays well into the ending of the movie, which I think you will enjoy.