While he earned acclaimed with Barbara, German director Christian Petzold, well-deservedly, reached a bigger audience with his haunting post-WWII drama Phoenix. He’s now returned with Transit, without regular muse Nina Hoss for the first time since 2005’s Ghosts, instead centering on Georg (Franz Rogowski), an escapee of a concentration camp who flees Paris just as the Nazis march in as the film depicts his few weeks in the French port city of Marseille before his final trip out of the continent. Despite the film taking place during the era of the Second World War, Petzold boldly decides to ignore the historical setting, costume- and production-wise, rather having the feel of the present day.
Following the Berlinale premiere, the first trailer and trio of clips have now arrived, and although sans subtitles, they provide an intriguing first look at Petzold’s feature. “Local boy Christian Petzold’s audacious retelling of Anna Seghers’s World War II-set novel about refugees escaping Nazi-controlled France is a strange, beguiling creation that will be hard to beat in the competition line-up, and ranks as a rare period piece that utterly gets under the skin of contemporary concerns,” Ed Frankl said in his review. “It’s an engrossing, uncanny and somewhat disturbing film, and completes something of a trio of historical melodramas after Barbara and his worldwide hit Phoenix, but develops the themes of those in an adventurous, if oblique, way.”
Check out the trailer, a trio of clips, and Berlinale press conference highlights below.
The German troops are just outside Paris. Georg escapes to Marseille at the last moment. His luggage contains the legacy of a writer named Weidel, who took his own life out of fear of persecution. This legacy comprises a manuscript, some letters and the Mexican Embassy’s assurance of a visa. Only those who can prove that they will leave are allowed in this port town, and this means you need an entry permit from a potential host country. Assuming the identity of Weidel, Georg tries to obtain one of the few scarce passages on a ship. Talks between refugees take place in the corridors of his small hotel, the waiting rooms of consulates, and the cafés and bars down at the harbour. Georg befriends Driss, the son of his late comrade Heinz, who died whilst trying to flee. But when he meets the mysterious Marie, his plans change. Transit is based on Anna Seghers’ eponymous novel which she wrote in exile. The film is set in contemporary Marseille where these characters from the past move around. And so, refugees from back then meet refugees from today, history meets the present, and all of their stories combine to create one eternal transit space.
Transit premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival.