In post-war Germany, Jewish singer Nelly (Hoss) survives Auschwitz, and returns home after major facial reconstructive surgery. Nelly is determined to find her husband Johnny (Zehrfeld) whom she still loves. But Johnny doesn’t recognize Nelly, so she decides to conceal her real identity. While Johnny schemes to have this new woman impersonate Nelly for her inheritance, Nelly ponders Johnny’s true allegiances and wonders who really betrayed her to the Nazis.
Petzold’s sixth film to feature the talented Hoss is a layered, suspenseful examination of identity after tragedy. Adapted from a 1961 novel by Hubert Monteilhet, the script parses the collective guilt of a country by way of a trenchant allegory about the denial of truth. Hoss’s performance hits complex notes as Nelly moves from shame towards acceptance of her past. Zehrfeld is dangerously attractive as the opaque husband in a film that pays homage to its noir antecedents in its dark themes and stylish aesthetic.