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The German Doctor

Studio: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Directed by Lucia Puenzo

Apr 21, 2014 Issue #49 - February/March 2014 - Portlandia
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Two decades after World War II, a small, Germanic community thrives in the mountains of Argentina, whose scenery rivals the Bavarian Alps. A family of four runs a lakeside hotel, including twelve-year-old Lillith, whose premature birth has left her considerably smaller than most girls her age. A mysterious doctor moves into the hotel and claims to have a method to reverse this wrong. Her parents initially decline, but after witnessing continuous ridicule by her “normal,” blue-eyed schoolmates, eventually consent, unwittingly entrusting Lillith to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, Auschwitz’s notorious Angel of Death.

The German Doctor is centered on a stoic performance by Àlex Brendemühl, whose Mengele is a departure from the mustache-twirling villains of Marathon Man and The Boys from Brazil. Certainly, there are nefarious undertones in his work, but the film is more measured—could his twisted experiments stem from a conscience? An irreverent approach, perhaps, but the screenplay manages to avoid didacticism while offering a biting critique on eugenics, speckling clever metaphors throughout the story. All the while, the Israeli Mossad lurks in the background, adding a great deal of suspense to a film, which—at just 93 minutes—deserves to be a tad more ambitious.

Author rating: 7/10

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