Director: Stephen frears (the queen, philomena)
Starring: hugh grant, ben wishaw, alex jennings, and partrica hodge
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
In an attempt to flee Nazi-occupied France, Georg assumes the identity of a dead author but soon finds himself stuck in Marseilles, where he falls in love with Maria, a young woman searching for her missing husband.
Transit, directed by Christian Petzold is a modern-day adaptation of the 1942 novel Transit Visa by Anna Seghers. It has the peculiar quality of retaining the feeling of being a WW2 era story while seeming not out of place in its modern day setting. The endorsement quote on the DVD cover proclaims that Transit is like Casablanca had it been written by Franz Kafka. How profound and true this is!
The film follows German refugee Georg on his way to Marseille who assumes the identity of a writer whose documents and effects he was charged with delivering, after the difficulty of obtaining and travelling under permit from the authorities in France takes a turn for the bureaucratic extreme. Transit does a great job of expressing the harrowing bureaucratic banality the refugee’s experience in Marseille - this is the Kafka reference, where people are stuck and unable to travel due to the inability to attain permits for residence or travel as they are refugees. This reality is compounded for these poor people by the whispers they hear of the encroaching army from the south and the cleansing that it is undertaking.
This lofty and unsettling premise is explored through Georg’s interactions with the refugee community, from the fortunate position his adopted identity has afforded him. He becomes acquainted with a woman named Marie, who remained in France despite having held a permit for departure by Sea - she heard from the embassy that her long lost husband had recently arrived in Marseille and is determined to be reunited with him.
Transit is an affecting film, one that brings into the present-day old wartime pain and hardship. That the film does this so well and without feeling out-of-step with modern day state of affairs, this allows it to leave lingering the question of whether we ever learn from history.
Transit is an affecting film that demands to be seen.