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Patagonia, 1960. A German doctor (Alex Brendemühl) meets an Argentinean family and follows them on a long desert road to a small town where the family will be starting a new life. Eva (Natalia Oreiro), Enzo (Diego Peretti) and their three children welcome the doctor into their home and entrust their young daughter, Lilith (Florencia Bado), to his care, not knowing that they are harboring one of the most dangerous criminals in the world. At the same time, Israeli agents are desperately looking to bring THE GERMAN DOCTOR to justice. Based on filmmaker Lucía Puenzo's (XXY) fifth novel, the story follows Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death," a German SS officer and a physician at the Auschwitz concentration camp, in the years he spent "hiding", along with many other Nazi's, in South America following his escape from Germany. Mengele was considered to be one of WWII's most heinous Nazi war criminals.Written by
Puenzo has managed to create an interesting story that revolves around Mengele's arrogant manipulation of an Argentinian family.
Its focus is initially on his relationship with the 12 year-old girl, Lileth, and his wish to help her with growth hormone treatment, however, it is never really made clear in the film as to whether this is merely Mengele seeing an opportunity to carry on his experiments or there is something darker about this relationship. Mengele manages throughout the film to manipulate the parents through promises of helping Lileth and easing the discomfort of the pregnant mother, and even offering to financially back the father in a potentially lucrative doll-making business.
Puenzo uses the doll-making as a metaphor for Mengele's obsession with perfection which is a little heavy-handed, and Mengele's relationship with Lileth is rather confused. Both of these point to the fact that Puenzo could really have opened up the story a bit more as there are hints at something far more sinister going on around the Claustrophobic confines of the family.
The German school Lileth is sent to has an underlying stench of Nazism still at play, yet this is something that Puenzo fails to explore. Also, the character of Nora, an archivist, photographer and Israeli agent, is underdeveloped. Puenzo merely hints at the work of Mossad and the how this is an important factor in the behaviour of both Mengele and Nora, also the group of Nazis working in a nearby country house isn't explained until Eva, the mother, gives birth and this necessitates Mengele requiring the help of the Nazi clinic.
So, for me, Puenzo should have explored many of the underlying themes evident in the story. This felt like a 90 minute movie that could have added another half an hours worth of expositional drama that would have created more of a sense of suspense. As such, Wakolda is an interestingly dark drama, yet one that lacks the depth of a bigger movie.
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