Undine – Streaming on Curzon Home CinemaTom Grieve, Cinema Editor
German filmmaker Christian Petzold has long mined history, literature and cinema for inspiration; weaving elements of our collective cultural mythos into increasingly slippery narratives in a way that feels utterly contemporary. His 2014 film Phoenix draws from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo as Nina Hoss plays a disfigured concentration camp survivor, trying to determine who she can trust in post-war Berlin. 2018’s Transit adapts Ana Seghers’ 1944 novel about German political refugees, incongruously updating the setting to the present day without updating any references.
Undine, his latest film, sees the writer-director reteam with (superb) Transit leads Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski for a dark Berlin-set romance. This time Petzold leans into fantasy and folklore, as historian and museum guide Undine (Beer) falls for industrial diver Christof (Rogowski). The film trades in ambiguity, with the director precisely hinting at fairy tales of water nymphs in a way that generates suspense as we follow the ebb and flow of its mysteries and tragedies. As with Transit, there’s a little bit of a leap required from viewers, but for those willing to go with it, Undine is truly enchanting.