German Film: Director Christian Petzold

Learn German, German Films

christian petzold

There is a chance you have already seen a film by this month’s German film feature Christian Petzold. The director and screenwriter has worked four times with actress Nina Hoss, whose work has been previously highlighted. He has nearly as many television films to his name as full-length feature films. While Petzold has not been as prolific with his work as some, the films he makes are weighty, serious ones that leave you with something to think about.

jerichow christian petzold


Based partially on the James M. Cain novel The Postman Always Rings Twice, Jerichow follows Benno F├╝rmann as Thomas, an Afghan war veteran who is a bit of a loner and a man of not many words. While back home for his mother’s funeral, he sets up home in the quiet town. Shortly thereafter he meets Ali, the owner of a chain of snack bars who is without a driver’s license after some alcohol-related offenses. Thomas quickly becomes Ali’s driver and, thereafter, begins an affair with Ali’s wife, Laura (portrayed by Nina Hoss). They’re playing with a dangerous secret, especially considering that Ali’s not shy about abusing his wife.

barbara - christian petzold


Set in East Germany in the 1980s, Barbara is a drama starring Nina Hoss. In the 2012 film, Hoss portrays the title character, Barbara Wolff. A doctor, Wolff had been working at a hospital in East Berlin. She is put under surveillance, however, after she applies to leave East Germany. As punishment she is sent to work in a rural hospital along the Baltic Sea. Notably, the film won Petzold an award for Best Director at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival.

phoenix christian petzold


The 2014’s Phoenix is Christian Petzold’s most recent full-length feature film. It is loosely based on the 1961 novel The Return from the Ashes by Hubert Monteilhet. Set in the period immediately following World War II, the film follows Nelly (portrayed by Nina Hoss) a Jew who lived through and survived Auschwitz concentration camp. But due to a serious injury to her face, she has had facial reconstruction surgery. When she returns to Berlin, her husband doesn’t recognize her. The film marks the sixth time Petzold and Hoss have worked together.

Practice practice practice! Discover other great German language actors and actresses previously featured.

Barbara photo by Eye Steel Film [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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