Phoenix: What Comes After Liberation

Movie Viewing #2: Review of Phoenix (2014)

At the second movie viewing that I attended, we watched Phoenix which was released in 2014. It was about a woman who survived a concentration camp, but had to have facial reconstructive surgery upon being liberated because of a gunshot wound. As a result, no one recognized her. A friend from before her capture took her in. As the movie progresses, the woman (named Nelly) finds out information regarding her capture, such as how her husband divorced her the day before she was arrested and then was present immediately after her arrest. Nelly moves in with her ex-husband, who does not recognize her and instead thinks she is a stranger that happens to look like Nelly. He wants to use her to get access to Nelly’s money, because she presumes her to be dead. Nelly goes along with it and pretends to learn how to be herself. By the end, she has no doubt in her mind about his betrayal that led to her arrest. She reveals to him that she is alive by showing him her tattoo from the concentration camp. The movie ends without resolution.

Although this movie was fictional, it touched on certain themes that were presented in Killing Civilians by Hugo Slim. Post-war suffering can be both physical and emotional, and can take a long time to get over. Many after a war or tragedy wish to resume their previous lives, such as how Nelly went along with her husband’s plot in order to feel like she was her old self. Also, the movie touched on the idea of how loved ones sometimes move on when a person is suspected to have died during a war, despite clear evidence. Another part of post-war suffering is the loss of loved ones without explicit confirmation of what happened to them. Like Nelly, many people were arrested in an instant with no explanation of why they were being taken, where they were being sent, or whether or not they made it out alive. I enjoyed the storyline of this movie and it was very suspenseful, yet it was not real. However, it made me think about what life must have been like for survivors of the Holocaust after being liberated. I could not imagine what it would be like to try to pick up the pieces of a past life, to search for family members, and to deal with emotional trauma while starting over.

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