A French beauty that's too soppy by half: BRIAN VINER watches post-war melodrama Frantz

Frantz (12A)

Verdict: Post-war melodrama?

Rating:

French director Francois Ozon’s lovely-looking, nicely acted, but ultimately rather soppy romantic melodrama whisks us back to a time when France and Germany weren’t the best of buddies, as they are today.

The film is set just after World War I, and the people of each country hate the other for what they consider to be the wholesale slaughter of their best and brightest young men.

Pierre Niney and Paula Beer in Frantz, pictured, a film that focuses on the aftermath of the First World War in a small German town

Pierre Niney and Paula Beer in Frantz, pictured, a film that focuses on the aftermath of the First World War in a small German town

In a small German town, Anna (Paula Beer) is mourning the death, shortly before the end of hostilities, of her fiancé Frantz.?

She lives with Frantz’s parents, who treat her like a daughter. Then a mysterious Frenchman arrives, claiming to have been Frantz’s best friend in Paris before the war.

This is Adrien (Pierre Niney), a sensitive musician whose emotions are as tightly strung as his violin bow. In due course he is embraced by Anna, and by Frantz’s parents.

But who is he really and why is he there? I should think most audiences will work this out long before Anna.?

Beer's Anna, right, is in mourning for her fiance Frantz but is intrigued by the arrival of mysterious Frenchman Adrien, left, played by Niney

Beer's Anna, right, is in mourning for her fiance Frantz but is intrigued by the arrival of mysterious Frenchman Adrien, left, played by Niney

The film is stylishly shot in black and white, morphing into colour whenever a character is in danger of having a good time.

But it is overlong, and I began to tire about half-way through of the soulful, doleful Adrien, who moons around with such fluttery, fragile sensitivity that it is a wonder his pencil moustache doesn’t begin to droop with the rest of him.

Nonetheless, Beer, switching effortlessly between German and French, and still only 22, gives a beguiling performance.?

And the film has valid things to say about war, national enmities and the nature of forgiveness.

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