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Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Jun. 15, 2014 7 years ago

FILM REVIEW: 'The German Doctor'

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The morbid fascination with Nazi war criminals never seems to ebb. "The German Doctor" is a semi-fictionalized story about where the elusive Dr. Josef Mengele (aka Auschwitz's "Angel of Death") may have spent time in 1960. It is told by a young girl smitten by a monster.

Lilith (Florencia Bado), a 12-year-old Argentinean is traveling with her family to Patagonia to begin a new life running a lakeside inn. A charming stranger (Alex Brendemuhl) approaches them at a rest stop and asks if he may follow them to their common destination in that he's a foreigner. The father, Enzo (Diego Peretti), agrees and as luck would have it, the stranger, who calls himself Helmut, requires lodging.

Helmut reveals that he's a doctor who studies animal genetics. Eva (Natalia Oreiro), Enzo's wife, is pregnant, which strangely arouses Helmut's curiosity. The fact that Lilith is small for her age prompts him to ask personal questions about Eva's previous pregnancies as well as her family's genetic history. In that Lilith is being teased at her new school because of her diminutive stature, Helmut suggests hormone treatments. Eva agrees, although Enzo is becoming wary of the doctor's unusual behavior.

An overly nosy school photographer, Nora Eldoc (Elena Roger), senses something is not quite kosher with Helmut. He's paling around with local German expats who seem extremely protective of the new doctor. Secretly, Nora's an agent with the Israeli Mossad and she alerts her superiors. The nail biting begins.

Director Lucia Puenzo ("XXY") adapts her own novel in this intelligent thriller. She knows her characters, having created them, which lends vast insight into their actions. Puenzo alludes to the fact that the the line between innocence and evil is blurred by blind acceptance. The sumptuous cinematography (filmed at Lake Nahuel Huapi) provides a disquieting contrast between all that is beautiful in this world and that which is horrific.

"The German Doctor" demonstrates that maniacal behavior is uncontrollably obsessive. Even when Mengele is in hiding he cannot refrain from committing the unthinkable. In the end when Eva gives birth to twins, he immediately begins backroom experiments on the infants. But the most frightening aspect of this chilling film is that there are always those willing to aid and abet in such obscene atrocities.

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