Review: The German Doctor (2014) compelling thriller from Argentina

May 22, 2014


THE GERMAN DOCTOR (2014) Àlex Brendemühl, Natalia Oreiro, Diego Peretti, Florencia Bado, Elena Roger, Alan Daicz, Abril Braunstein, Juan l Martinez Directed by Lucia Puenzo

Adapted from writer/director Lucia Puenzo's own novel,"Wakolda" comes this fictionalized account of former Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, the so called "Angel Of Death" who was known for his inhumane medical experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp. Like many other Nazis after the war, Mengele went into hiding and spent part of his time in Argentina. It's a chilling and fascinating story feature a great performance by Àlex Brendemühl as the notorious physician.

The movie opens up amidst the scenic beauty of the Andes in an isolated part of the Argentine countryside where we meet Eva (Natalia Oreiro), Enzo (Diego Peretti) and their three kids, as the family stocks up on supplies at a rest stop. A mysterious stranger watches the family's 12 year old daughter Lilith (Florencia Bado) playing with an old doll outside the store and approaches her engaging in a conversation about her age, it's a creepy scene with an ominous tone. When Enzo encounters the stranger talking to his daughter the man introduces himself and asks if he may follow them down the road towards the town of Bariloche where the family reveals they are turning an inherited home into a lakeside inn. The doctor explains that he's new to the area and asks if he can be the first registered guest, as an incentive he pays for the first six months in advance. When questioned by the family about his occupation, the doctor reveals that he works with cattle and growth hormones in the area of genetics. He eventually convinces Eva to let him administer growth hormones to daughter Lilith when he notices she is developing slower than the average 12 year old. When Mengele finds out that Eva is expecting twins he also begins to treat her, none of this sits well with Enzo who doesn't trust the doctor. Mengele tries to win over the father by mass producing a line of dolls that Enzo had once designed. The eerie looking blonde hair, blue-eyed dolls look like they came from the Village Of The Damned collection.

Mysterious meetings between Mengele and some of the locals begin to take place and the town's photographer, Nora (Elana Roger) gets suspicious of the mysterious doctor so she starts to investigate his identity. Roger, a critically acclaimed actress from Argentina, recently appeared on Broadway as Eva Peron in Evita. She is really good in the movie and so is the rest of the cast. The cinematography by Nicolás Puenzo captures the beauty of Argentina and provides an excellent background to tell the story. This is the second feature from director Lucia Puenzo and she has put together a compelling thriller that would have been even more suspenseful if the doctor's identity would have been kept a secret until the very end.

(3 stars)

*Now playing at the Sundance Cinema (Houston) and Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills (Austin).