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Monday, 11 June 2018

Sydney Film Festival (15) - Christian Petzold's TRANSIT (Germany, 2018)

Christian Petzold
Christian Petzold has been an art house favourite for awhile now, the only modern German director whose work even gets a look in beyond the festivals and film weeks. 
Petzold’s Transit is a very odd enterprise though given the way his recent films play with memories and the past you can see what attracted him to the material as he envisaged it. 
Transit is based on a novel by Anna Seghers published in 1942. Petzold’s conceit is to simply set the film in the present with Nazi occupying forces slowly strangling France and refugees fleeing from persecution. As it was in 1942, those being pursued seek to escape from France to America and to Mexico. Visas are a lifeblood. The modern technology of surveillance and capture of the innocent is nowhere to be seen. House to house, rail car to rail car, informers in hotels - all low-tech.
Inexorably it starts to riff off Casablanca. The two male protagonists both fall for the same woman, sacrifice has to be made. Increasing ambiguity abounds and there are mind games between characters and between Petzold and his audience. 
Paula Beer, Franz Rogowski, Transit
I guess we are supposed to think that nothing has changed. Refugees were singled out then and are singled out now. Anti-semitism is and was a key to government and community action. The vilified are still rounded up and locked away. 
A Variety review was supportive saying that (Petzold) “whose extraordinary anti-historical experiment Transit nonetheless registers as his most conceptually daring film to date.” Phew.

It’s in the SFF's "Official Competition” and its ingenuity caused me to check just what this means: audacious, cutting-edge and courageous film. The Official Competition celebrates that rare but thrilling film that truly moves the art form forward. Innovative, provocative or controversial, they broaden our understanding of the world and say important things in original ways. 
Does that work. Hmmm


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