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Wakolda (aka ‘The German Doctor’)

Graham Eley

The chilling new feature from Argentinian filmmaker, Lucía Puenzo, no stranger to challenging subjects, unfolds amongst the eerie remains of the Third Reich, those evil fragments that survived the burning ashes and found a new home in Argentina’s remote southern tip. 

 

But, this is a community where other German expats reside and serious war criminals can mingle without necessarily arousing suspicion.  Native Argentines are uneasy, seemingly far removed from the Nazi sympathisers in Government, yet turn a blind eye to the familiar bandaged heads in a sinister mountainside retreat.

 

And fascist angst is in the air.  The Mossad, never far behind, had just taken the prized scalp of Holocaust architect, Adolf Eichmann and now had another in its sight, arguably, the even more heinous, Josef Mengele.

 

A true story finds him masquerading as a veterinarian, staying at a family hotel with owners oblivious to his true identity notwithstanding some disturbing clues.  He charms their twelve year old daughter, Lilith – a form of grooming but without sexual intent – and takes a keen interest in her stunted growth.

 

A natural chemistry between actors Àlex Brendemühl and Florencia Bado – both superb – compounds our dismay as Lilith responds to his faux paternal warmth with a childlike quasi crush; an ironic respite from relentless bullying at school.  “I am interested in you”, he tells her and we know why.  Unfortunately, her mother doesn’t, blindly giving the green light for Mengele to start genetic treatment against her husband’s wishes and knowledge.

 

And Mengele cannot believe his luck when Lilith’s mother falls pregnant with twins, the film’s most direct reference to his diabolical past.

 

Puenzo has adapted it from her own novel of the same name and we sense that she has meticulously researched Mengele’s character and the satellite post war settlement.  And the film’s at its most effective – actually, very good – when concentrating on the interaction between the two and their impact on Lilith and her family.  It’s less successful – and feels more fictionalised – when Mengele and Lilith’s father become embroiled in an ideological battle of wits over the mass production of dolls, a blatant Übermensch analogy and sub-plot that Puenzo pushes too far.tadapox australia buy
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  • Year: 2013
  • Country: Argentina
  • Filmmaker: Lucía Puenzo
  • Screenwriter: Lucía Puenzo
  • Producer: Fernando Abadi, Gudny Hummelvoll, Stan Jakubowicz, Axel Kuschevatzky, José María Morales, Lucía Puenzo and Fabienne Vonier
  • Cinematographer: Nicolás Puenzo
  • Editor: Hugo Primero
  • Cast: Àlex Brendemühl, Florencia Bado, Natalia Oreiro and Diego Peretti
  • Duration: 93 mins
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