In Christian Petzold’s film ‘Transit’ France has been taken over by a foreign force intent on cleansing the country of its undesirable elements.
Georg attempts to escape the crackdown by assuming the identity of a dead author and fleeing to Marseille. From here with the aid of a transit visa he hopes to go to Mexico to live in peace.
Of course, we know the novel on which the film is based was written in 1943, and the occupying force was the Nazis, but in this version of the book, it is never specified. The police vans and security forces who round up and arrest ‘illegals’ are all in modern dress and the parallel with contemporary attitudes to race and immigration are stark. At the same time, the film has other elements which place it firmly in the forties, such as the scenes in the cafe or the American Consulate. This mixing of the past and present should not work, but it does beautifully.Echoes of Camus, Casablanca Army of Shadows and our contemporary crisis coexist with the minimum of fuss.
The acting of the all principle characters is wonderfully understated and emotive, and as the story unfolds, we feel the pain of a world where it’s not just the people who are in transit but also their romantic relationships which are constantly fragmenting and revealing themselves to be unworkable.
The ending is beautifully done, and the moment the film ends you want to see it again, it’s that good.