Transit is a quiet thriller that will have you thinking about it long after the credits role. This isn’t a thriller in the sense of Se7en or Sicario, where it is overly dark and shocking in its violent and subject matter. No, this is a thriller that takes place during the bright, sunny days in France and looks at one man’s loneliness in the world.
Transit looks at Georg (Franz Rogowski), a man who, after fleeing France after the Nazi invasion, assumes the identity of a dead author whose papers he possesses. He travels to Marseilles, where he meets Marie (Paula Beer) a young woman desperate to find her missing husband – the very man he’s impersonating.
Writer/director Christen Petzold has a made an identity theft movie about loneliness and living in purgatory and personal hell. Georg is lonely man. Our introduction to the man is him sitting at a bar alone in Paris. An acquaintance comes in to the same bar and asks why he is there and that he won’t be able to get out because of the invasion. Georg just shrugs it off. He doesn’t care. But when his acquaintance offers him some money for a favor, Georg takes it. But has Gerog’s journey goes on, and he begins to meet people a begins to meet people in Marseilles and starts caring for them, an emotion he hasn’t felt before. But because he hasn’t felt this way before, he doesn’t know how to react to it, and his choices become suspect. It is incredibly compelling to watch this man try to care and love others when he can’t even love himself. Couple that with the identity theft story and the characters he meets along the way and you have a tragic, layered story.
Petzold also allows Marseilles to be a character itself. This is a shipping town where nobody stays forever. It’s a temporary stop on everyone’s escape to a better life. Petzold showcases the gorgeous city with bright colors and beautiful street views only to show that this is a place where people become free or go back to their own hell. But Marseilles also acts as another level to Georg’s life. This is a city where people only stop by, yet Gerog is struggling to leave. He’s stuck in a place where he sees people constantly being deported and people around him are dying. He is living a lie in a place of sadness and it only makes it sadder as his relationships run deeper.
Rogowski gives one of the best performances I have seen so far in 2019. Georg doesn’t show a lot of emotion, and doesn’t know how to express himself. But what Rogowski does well is utilize his piercing eyes to show us what emotions Georg is feeling. We see the love in his eyes when he begins to fall for Marie and we see the happiness when he plays soccer with Driss, the son of a friend of who passed away. But Rogowski also shows us the emptiness and sadness in Georg. It’s a spectacular performance that only grows as the movie goes on. Beer is heartbreaking as Marie, a woman desperate to find her husband, yet has no idea about his faith and what Georg knows. And Godehard Giese gives a strong, deep performance a doctor friend of Marie’s who has his own issues with escaping and leaving Marseilles.
It’s only March, but Transit is going to be tough to beat as the best foreign film of 2019. This is an unsettling, beautiful, tragic story about one man’s loneliness on a gorgeous island filled with only hope and sadness. Led by a great, complex performance by Rogowski and Petzold’s brilliant way of never showing all of his cards and letting the layers peel away, Transit is one of the best movies of 2019 so far.
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