Transit is a World War II film set in the present day… Or it could be about a wholly new war we are yet to see in the near future… Or it could just as easily be about the crisis modern day migrants face when seeking to flee their country. Any interpretation works just as well, while each adds its own set of interesting conclusions to the film’s premise. The story is made up of elements we’ve all seen before: forged passports, impersonation, deceit, a mad dash to escape the country, etc. The decision to set it outside of any definable time and place elevates the material in translation.
Based off of Anna Segher’s 1944 novel of the same name, Transit follows Georg (Franz Rogowski) as he attempts to pass himself off as a deceased writer in order to secure his escape from Marseille and safe passage into Mexico. The story never leaves his point of view, even though it is being narrated by a character within the film. Georg’s fears, anxieties and conflicting desires are shown without embellishment and without trickery. We see the man and his situation as they are, and wonder just how much further he can entangle himself.
Something about the way Petzold shoots each scene adds to the film in a way that’s difficult to define. No one shot stands out like the genius closer, and the editing isn’t flashy either. Each scene comes and goes with impeccable timing, not overstaying its welcome, and not revealing any more than the absolute minimum. If you give your full attention to Transit, you will have an emotional experience that rarely comes through in modern films, one where the film is far enough ahead of you to leave endless questions, but doles out enough clues to make you eager to do the work in catching up.