Written and directed by Adrian Goiginger, the true story of Franz Streitberger, the director’s great-grandfather, a motorcycle courier for the Austrian Army. At the beginning of the Second World War, this introverted young soldier comes across a wounded fox cub that he looks after and takes to occupied France with him. Starring: Simon Morzé, Karl Markovics, Adriane Gradziel and Joseph Stoisits.
When it comes to war films, it’s tricky these days to find one that walks new ground but The Fox does just that. It creates a story of warmth and compassion within a harsh, treacherous time of conflict, and the fact that it’s a true story gives it an extra edge. At its base, the idea of Franz (Simon Morzé) caring for the fox as a representation of his feelings of being taken away from and abandoned by his family in his youth, is a pretty perfect parallel. There’s an elegant simplicity to it, there may be a lot going on in the bigger picture with the timing of when it takes place and the war zones he finds himself in, but at the foreground it’s just Franz and the fox. In that sense you could argue that it does run a little bit longer than it needs to but taking into consideration its heartrending finale, it’s worth it.
It’s even more worth it when you take into account the extraordinary visual that Adrian Goiginger and cinematographers Yoshi Heimrath and Paul Sprinz create. The texture of the aesthetic is superb, both in evoking the 1940s and in simply how satisfying it is to watch. It immediately builds an evocative atmosphere, not unlike Son of Saul, but don’t worry The Fox is much less depressing and shattering. Although that’s not to say it doesn’t hold a range of emotion which can dig deep when it needs to. Another thing that visual achieves is reflecting the tenderness to the story, the care and devotion which Franz has towards the fox is expertly reflected in Goiginger’s direction.
Franz is a man of few words but much emotion, Simon Morzé portrays him with a fantastic depth, slowly revealing the layers and vulnerabilities to him. He’s a terrific character to follow, he’s complex but easy to relate to, he’s incredibly sympathetic and watching him find that little island of solace within the fox is something special. Morzé taps into a tone that doesn’t grab you immediately, it has a growingly compelling nature. As things move forward and those layers are peeled away, he shows the lighter side to him but at the same time that’s balanced with the resentment and anger from his youth. A lot of that comes from him being so young, something that Morzé does well to portray, as with a horrific number of soldiers during World War II, there’s an inexperience and struggle to find themselves.
The Fox is a touching story of a rose among the thorns, finding a reason for compassion and caring in a world of baseless violence. It’s moving to watch the relationship between Franz and the fox develop, providing that outlet for his lighter side opens up Franz’s personality and lets Simon Morzé explore all the layers he has to offer. Both the story and visual are full of depth, it’s not only a wonderful story but it is beautifully shot from start to finish.