Rising from the Ashes

September 20, 2015 // Film, World War II, Writing

In the film Phoenix, a concentration camp survivor returns to Berlin with the hope of rebuilding her life just as it was before the war. But of course, nothing is the same—not even her face—and she learns awful truths about her husband and people she thought were her friends. Through a clever (if slightly unbelievable) plot device, she is recreated, bit-by-bit, into her old self until she re-emerges into the light. But, she discovers of course, that nothing can be the same ever again.

So many people suggested I need to see this film, and, now that I’ve seen it, I am telling everyone else that they need to see it, too. It is an amazing film that works brilliantly on many levels to tell the story of the Holocaust, of World War II Germany, of guilt and complicity, of succumbing and of rebirth. My friends and family know that this is exactly the research and reading I return to repeatedly and these are subjects I can discuss for hours, which is why I am so much fun at parties. I found myself transfixed by the face of Nina Hoss, the actress who plays Nelly, the protagonist. She can communicate the most profound emotion with the slightest movement of her eye, or twitch of her mouth.  I wondered how as a writer, I would communicate that same level of subtlety in expression. I don’t know if it’s possible but I am going to try. There is so much going on in every scene in the film, it is mesmerizing.

See this movie. I promise you won’t be sorry. (Also, watch Barbara, an earlier movie by the same director with the same actress and actor. It is streaming on Netflix and is also brilliant).

About the author

C.F. Yetmen is a writer and consultant specializing in architecture and design. She is co-author of The Owner’s Dilemma: Driving Success and Innovation in the Design and Construction Industry and a former publisher of Texas Architect magazine. The Roses Underneath is her first novel.