Panorama | Contemporary World Cinema
With occupying forces closing in on Paris, a haunted refugee named Georg (Franz Rogowski, Germany’s Joaquin Phoenix) assumes a dead writer’s identity—and, more importantly, transit papers—and flees to Marseille in hopes of sailing safely to Mexico. However, he soon becomes entangled in the lives of the other desperate souls who’ve been left behind, including the widow (Paula Beer) of the man he’s posing as.
Liberally adapting the Second World War-set novel by Anna Seghers, Christian Petzold (Phoenix) masterfully conjures a fever dream-fuelled, noir-tinged romantic thriller that’s equally indebted to Casablanca and current affairs. And while Transit could likely content itself—and audiences—with simply being a high-concept exercise in skilfully colouring outside the temporal lines, Petzold mounts an existential adventure film that sets the synapses firing with its imagination and quickens the pulse with its plot twists.
"[Petzold’s] most conceptually daring film to date… This could as easily be the past, as viewed through a hall of mirrors, or an apocalyptic near-future, positioning the events on screen either as recontextualized history or timely cautionary tale… [This is] a film that shivers with the awareness of absence, distance and the relentless, elastic course of time’s arrow."—Guy Lodge, Variety