The true story of an Argentine family who lived with Josef Mengele without knowing his true identity, and of a girl who fell in love with one of the biggest criminals of all time.
“The German Doctor” is a movie that revolves around Josef Mengele, a German SS officer and physician in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He was infamous for his choice of sufferers that were to be killed in the gas chambers and for operating on humans and prisoners using unscientific and often deadly experiments. The movie opens up in 1960 in Patagonia in South America. We are introduced to Eva (Natalia Oreiro), who is German-speaking and her husband Enzo (Diego Peretti) and their three children.
With Eva’s mother having just passed away two months prior, she is taking her family to the hotel that her mother used to own and operate in the hopes of re-opening it to the public once more. Along the way, they meet Mengele (Àlex Brendemühl), who by now has adopted a new identity. He befriends the family and after earning their trust, he takes a particular interest in their middle child Lilith (Florencia Bado), who is twelve years old but looks no older than eight and who is also lacking in height for her age.
Because of Lilith, he finds a rejuvenated enthusiasm in human genetics exploration. With many of the local townspeople unaware of who he is, there are a select few who are in awe of him, solid supporters of the SS who welcome him with open arms, ready to assist him in any way possible. Lilith and her family are all gradually won over by this charming man until they discover they are living with one of the biggest war criminals of all time. At the same time, Israeli agents are desperately looking to bring Mengele to justice.
“The German Doctor” is a solid drama with powerful performances, deft direction by Lucía Puenzo and some beautiful cinematography by Nicolás Puenzo. The movie is touted as a love story, with young Lilith supposedly enamored by Mengele. The attention he gives her, even if it is for his own nefarious agenda, makes her feel significant, a big change from her daily dose of teasing from her unsympathetic classmates who constantly ridicule her because of her height.
The one issue I had with this part of the movie was that I never really felt that she was in love with him, rather, it was more about her curiosity as to who he was and why he did things the way he did. A typical preteen full of observation with someone who seems to have a sincere concern for them. The film is listed as a drama/thriller and while there are some investigative scenes and some references to espionage, the film is more drama than thriller. But that’s okay because while it may not be full of thrills, it does have a very interesting story to tell.
In select theaters May 16th including the Angelika in Dallas and Plano