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film review

Director Christian Petzold is less interested in the scheme’s details than in the reconstruction of identity in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust: of the Jewish returnees, but also of the guilt, practised tears and necessary self-delusion of those who remained.Christian Schulz

A Jewish-German woman is presumed dead, but isn't.

The trauma of her experience in Auschwitz has rendered her unrecognizable (physically and otherwise) to even her beloved husband – who may have been the one who betrayed her.

Still madly in love, she returns to an equally destroyed Berlin to find him; when she does, he notices only enough of a resemblance to have her impersonate his late wife and claim an inheritance.

With a riveting performance-within-a-performance of subtle physicality by Nina Hoss, the charade in which a woman plays her own doppelganger certainly borrows tension, look and conventions from postwar film noir, and the Hitchcockian doubles, reversals and atmosphere of suspicion unbalance expectations of which character (if either) is cat or mouse.

But director Christian Petzold (Barbara, Jerichow) is less interested in the scheme's details than in the reconstruction of identity in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust: of the Jewish returnees, but also of the guilt, practised tears and necessary self-delusion of those who remained.

How much duplicity is necessary to make life bearable?