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Transit

Christian Petzold

German director Christian Petzold’s (Barbara, Phoenix) latest work, Transit, is based on Anna Segher’s 1942 novel about wartime refugees trapped in Marseilles while trying to flee the Nazis. Atmospheric and tense, Petzold’s filmmaking is complex but highly relevant and infused with his love of classic cinema storytelling which makes it so compelling.

"As Georg falls in love, he has to find a way of saving Marie without revealing his deceit...."

Boldly, Petzold has made the decision to set the action in the present day – a strategy that brings this tragic historical drama smack into our contemporary world. With Nazi troops just outside Paris, German refugee Georg (In the Aisles’ Franz Rogowski), escapes to Marseilles. Only refugees who can prove they are able to leave Marseilles are allowed into the port town, and Georg has managed this by assuming the identity of a dead writer, Weidel, whose papers are in his possession. These include a manuscript, and a letter from the Mexican Embassy assuring the author of a visa. While waiting for his ship, Georg encounters other refugees desperately waiting for transit visas. He befriends the mysterious Marie (Frantz’ Paula Beer), who is desperate to find her husband – Weidel. As Georg falls in love, he has to find a way of saving Marie without revealing his deceit.

Petzold’s contemporary setting reminds us the hardship and heartbreak of war and displacement are still present in many parts of the world. Rogowski, often called the European Joaquin Phoenix, brings a surly charm to our ‘hero’ Georg, whose blinkered self-preservation is eventually called into question by the desperation that surrounds him.