Queering the Trenches: The Homoerotic Accents in François Ozon’s Frantz (2016)

Helena Duffy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Frantz (2016) is not the first adaptation undertaken by the French film director and, characteristically for the maker of 8 Femmes (2002) or Swimming Pool (2003), François Ozon’s more recent film revisits a relatively obscure source text. As a remake of Maurice Rostand’s play L’homme que j’ai tué (1930) and Ernst Lubitsch’s film Broken Lullaby (1932), Frantz appears to belong to ‘heritage cinema’. Critics such as Fredric Jameson (1991), Andrew Higson (2004) or Linda Hutcheon (2013) have associated the genre with nostalgia and conservative values, accusing it of projecting an elite version of the national past and of portraying the nation as a site of heteronormative reproductive futurism. However, as a postmodern film which, to put it in Hutcheonean terms, both uses and abuses the narrative convention it inscribes, Frantz evidently challenges values attached to ‘heritage cinema’. By queering death in the trenches, Ozon, as I contend in this contribution, explores both the association between queerness and the negation of reproductive futurism postulated by Leo Edelman (2004) and the linked conception of the queer as the site of society’s death drive. The film reinforces this connection by making the eponymous character’s death in a rectum-like trench both the starting point and the culmination of the imaginary relationship between Frantz and Adrien, and by placing Manet’s Le Suicidé in the intertextual backdrop of their homoerotically tinged interactions. Correlatedly, by queering Frantz’s death, Ozon destabilises the conception of war as a gendered and gendering experience capable of reinvigorating postwar society with physically and morally virtuous masculinities. But, identified with pacifism, queerness serves not only to reinforce the film’s obvious anti-war message but also, more broadly, to criticise modernity with its faith in humanity’s uninterrupted progression towards future. By showing Anna’s hopes for a relationship with Adrien dashed and by having her contemplate Le Suicidé in the closing scene, the film confirms its resistance to normative social order embodied by Anna’s aggressively heterosexual suitor Kreutz. Indeed, Frantz blames this order for the carnage of World War I and, given the unrelenting nationalism and thirst for revenge on both sides of the Franco-German border, potentially also for the forthcoming atrocities of World War II.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Films of François Ozon
Subtitle of host publicationRefocus
EditorsLoic Bourdeau
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages18
Publication statusSubmitted - 29 Mar 2019

Publication series



  • François Ozon
  • masculinities
  • World War 1
  • homosexuality
  • queer theory
  • queerness

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