In Appreciation Of… Christian Petzold

Back in 2017, when HMV Canada started closing its doors and liquidating its stock, I headed to my local store, and was determined to go on an elaborate shopping spree.  There was no turning back in this case, due to how a refund was impossible to deal with. I reacted quickly, when I first saw the beautifully organised Criterion Blu-ray shelf, filled to the brim with exquisite pieces of cinema, begging to be bought and watched. One of these criterion films was Christian Petzold’s 2014 film Phoenix, which in my opinion, is one of the most memorable war-time themed flicks ever made. Petzold’s intricate knack for exploring the unanswered adds so much visceral tension and ambiguity to his films, making them personal and at times emotionally dense thought provoking experiences.

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I clearly remember watching Transit for the first time this year, where I sat in dark Cineplex theater in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the show too start. My expectations for the film were modest, with some subjective preferences. As much as I adored Phoenix for all it’s marvelous detail, I’ve learnt over the past few years to stay as neutral and unbiased as possible, before watching a film. I was ready for the worst, and ready for the best. When the film concluded, I was in sheer awe by the magnitude of Petzold’s vision. His usage of tone, characters, and Orwellian-like scenarios, all add up to a pile of perfectly stitched together concepts and ideas which neither feels cheap nor poorly executed.

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Re-watching Transit for the second time recently, added more to the experience. The magic of Transit lies in its very conceptual essence, a plot which relies on a very simple scenario of “What if the rise of fascism occurred during the 21st century, instead of the 20th.” Petzold plays with this “What If” concept like a puppeteer playing with his marionettes, manipulating politics and the human condition as means for exploration on immigration and the refugee crisis. Transit is fueled with these politicized elements, making it’s world feel fleshed out and wholly unique, almost like an identical alternate dimension from ours. 

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It takes a true master of their particular craft to construct a film that perfectly encapsulates the timeliness and importance of immigration. Part romance, part drama, and all around an enthralling piece of cinema, Christian Petzold further proves to be a class act in the international film circuit. With films such as Barbara and Transit up his belt, it’s further enough reason to recommend his filmography too all who would be interested. Petzold is not only one of the most humanist filmmaker’s of the 21st century, but also one of the most understanding of our world today. With a cherry on top, Transit ends with The Talking Heads “Road To Nowhere”, further proving Petzold’s talent for dramatic irony and playful character interactions as means for commentary. 

Transit is Now Playing In Select Canadian Theaters

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