DVD Review: The German Doctor

STUDIO: First Run Features | DIRECTOR: Lucía Puenzo | CAST: Alex Brendemuhl, Natalia Oreiro, Diego Peretti, Elena Roger, Guillermo Pfening
DVD RELEASE DATE: 9/16/2014 | PRICE: DVD $27.95
BONUSES: none
SPECS: PG-13 | 93 min. | Foreign language mystery drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo | Spanish with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

Lucia Puenzo’s 2013 film The German Doctor, based on her own novel (based in turn on a true story) is a quietly disturbing coming-of-age mystery drama set among German expatriates in post-World War II Argentina.

The German Doctor movie scene

Alex Brendemuhl and Florencia Bado in The German Doctor

Lilith (Florencia Bado) was a premature baby and at 12, her growth seems to be stunted. As she and her family head to Patagonia to reopen a hotel, they meet a German doctor who takes a special interest in the girl and even offers the hope of stimulating her development with experimental treatments. He is, actually, Josef Mengele (Alex Brendemuhl), Hitler’s “Angel of Death,” and in a country where Israeli agents have just captured Adolf Eichmann, he is their latest quarry.

Told from the detached and curious point-of-view of a child, Puenzo’s film is deceptively gentle. Even the locale—the magnificent mountains and lakes of southern Argentina (gorgeously photographed by Nicholas Puenzo)—makes the turmoil of postwar Europe seem a distant rumble. References to Nazism are whispered and the only swastika seen (briefly glimpsed, actually) is in an old photo from a German language school. Lilith’s narration is told simply over the visual of the notebook where Mengele meticulously records his experiments.

The low-key performances complement the director’s tone. Brendemuhl is coolly clinical with an easy authority that could believably win the confidence of strangers. Bado is superb: eager to fit in and with a young girl’s crush on a handsome doctor she sees as her savior. Also in the cast is Elena Roger, who recently starred in a revival of Evita, who is fine as a sympathetic teacher.

Not high-octane Frederick Forsythe thriller, The German Doctor is a well-told and chilling tale of the far-reaching effects of Nazism set in a remote corner of the world.

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About David

David Leopold is an actor, writer and videographer who would take a Sherpa ride up a Tibetan mountain to see an Edwige Feuillère movie.