Dynamic German duo Petzold and Hoss get the OKCMOA treatment they deserve

'Phoenix' featured image
Nina Hoss in Christian Petzold's 'Phoenix'

Scorsese and DeNiro. Allen and Farrow. Bergman and von Sydow. An individual performer or director may go far, but a tandem of the two can provide that extra nudge of assurance to make both figures historic. They can also fail miserably, yielding abysmal work or, at the very least, a very pissed-off David O. Russell.

This weekend, Oklahoma City Museum of Art plays host to a pairing perhaps lesser known stateside, yet nonetheless momentous. Nina Hoss, one of the fastest-rising European actresses, possesses an air about her that is paradoxically classic and progressive. Behind the frame, director Christian Petzold conjures themes of ambition, fear, and the unseen beauty of oscillation. The duo’s collaborations have ruled the pantheon of modern German cinema, garnering awards for almost every piece they’ve generated. Three selections, however, epitomize the power of these masters exceptionally.


5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27

Suffering a legacy of abuse at the hand of her ex-husband, Yella (Hoss) escapes her former spouse in West Germany. Quickly finding a potential soulmate in her new employer, the woman begins to find her first sliver of solace. Unfortunately, vivid hallucinations and the unshakable urge that the archon of her vicious past is near, Yella’s serenity shatters.

Petzold’s Yella is a terrifying portrait of a perilous past. Self-aware of its region, Yella also dissects the turmoil of Germany’s unification, determining that reconciliation is anything but seamless. The 2007 film established Hoss as a dauntless force capable of emitting melancholy and horror without skipping a beat.


8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27

The tandem’s series of suspense continues with Barbara, which follows Hoss as the eponymous character as she is released from imprisonment in 1980s East Germany. A doctor, Barbara’s craft is too valuable to compromise, and she is thus reassigned to a rural community. The physician soon begins to waver, however, as her empathy overrides her desperate attempt at compliance within an authoritative state.

Suspenseful, voyeuristic and tragic, Petzold formulates a drama with towering stakes. It’s a deep look into a not-yet-settled cultural psyche, as a battle of paranoia and humanistic salvation pervades like the constant shadow of a police state.


5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Aug. 29-30
2 p.m., 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30
5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3

Hoss and Petzold’s latest work, Phoenix, concludes the thematic trilogy on a high note. The film follows Nelly (Hoss) in post-Holocaust Berlin, detailing the insatiable yet fruitless search for understanding following one of the darkest movements of the civilized world. After she endures severe facial reconstructive surgery spurred by a bullet wound, an unrecognizable Nelly desperately combs the war-torn country in hopes of finding her husband, who supposedly forfeited her over to the Nazi regime.

Phoenix carefully considers life after an atrocity, and as the title implies, both physical and cathartic rebirth play key roles. Disturbing and beautiful, Phoenix is a chimera of what Hoss and Petzold do best.