Foreign Oscar Entry Review: The German Doctor (Wakolda)

by Carlos Aguilar
December 16, 2013 9:31 PM
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Lucía Puenzo's 'The German Doctor'

The German Doctor, Argentina's Submission for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. U.S. :Samuel Goldwyn Films. International Sales Agent: Pyramide International

In the quest for perfection humanity has gone to great lengths to alter and manipulate physical processes or unaesthetic features. Striving to improve and increase the species' adaptability is the basis for evolution. Traits and defects are passed on through generations engraved in the DNA. Aware of this, and in an attempt to justice their heinous crimes and bless them as 'scientific purification of the Aryan race', the Nazis fabricated their own branch of Social Darwinism. They pursued a type of homogenous beauty based on phony symmetrical genetics, with which they aimed to craft a special breed of super humans.

Rid of any genetic imperfections or miscegenation these individuals would become the pinnacle of their efforts. Spearheading this research and its consequential experimentation was Josef Mengele, a physician and one of the most notorious German SS officers. Following Germany’s defeat the world was learning of the horrors that took place in the concentration camps. Many Nazi officers and supporters, Mengele included, escaped to South America to avoid facing justice. Lucía Puenzo’s magnificent historical fiction film The German Doctor tries to reconstruct the time the so-called “Angel of Death” spent in Argentina and the moral implications of the unexplored complicity of the locals.

Set in 1960 against the breathtaking scenery of the Patagonian town of Bariloche, the story focuses on a family that serendipitously crosses paths with Mengele (Àlex Brendemühl) on their way to the family owned hostel. Upon meeting Lilith (Florencia Bado), the family’s daughter, the doctor is instantly captivated by the girl’s size and physical features. She is a 12-year-old girl that appears extremely underdeveloped and fragile for her age. He immediately considers her the perfect specimen to test his theories, and to his advantage she seems to be equally intrigued by the foreign man. Her pregnant mother, Eva (Natalia Oreiro), fluent in German, seems to like the doctor who easily gains her trust, despite her husband Enzo’s (Diego Peretti) noticeable suspicion of his intentions.

Once in Bariloche the doctor convinces the family to let him rent a room at their place, clearly part of his plan to stay close to his interest. The city exudes a heavily German influence, including Eva’s old Nazi-supported school where she enrolls Lilith and her two siblings. There, her tall and blond classmates of German descent bully the young girl because of her size. This represents a prime opportunity for Mengele to interfere. He persuades Eva to let him inject Lilith with hormones that will make her grow, and he provides her with pills to help with her pregnancy, all of it behind the patriarch’s back.

Mindful of Enzo’s growing uneasiness towards him, the conniving German doctor shows interest in the man’s passion for designing dolls. With Lilith’s father now distracted with his own project, Mengele has free range to experiment after discovering Eva is expecting twins. Increasingly curious about the doctor’s stories, Lilith begins reading about the Aryan pseudo-mythology in her school’s library where she meets photographer Nora Eldoc (Elena Roger). As the family starts to grapple with the motives behind the doctor’s unsolicited help, Eldoc will prove to be a crucial character when the Israeli secret police, the Mossad, comes hunting down the runaway Nazis.

Conceived with incredible moral complexity and a mysteriously alluring tone, the film doesn’t simply crucify Mengele as the source of all evil, but it instead questions the willing collaboration of others. There is a shared responsibility for his acts occurring between him and the participants. He doesn’t kidnap Lilith or forces Eva to accept any treatment, but they grant him permission. In the same manner, the replication of artificial beauty is not only expressed via Mengele’s vision of what Lilith and the twins can become, but also in Enzo’s obsessive interest in creating the perfect human-like doll.

“Wakolda”, Lilith’s rag doll made by the native Mapuche Indians is not good enough in his eyes, and it must be improved. Just like with Mengele’s grueling fixation with engineering a utopian race, all individuality must be suppressed and replaced by identical flawlessness. This absurd aspiration is shared by both of the their enterprises. Such tacit complicity mirrors that of the entire community, which aware of the numerous Nazis and their supporters, prefers to let them live in obscurity.

Puenzo’s fascinating period piece, based on her own novel, revisits familiar stories of Nazism with a particular focus on the Argentinean involvement. Executed with outstanding attention to detail, a prodigious ensemble cast, and splendid cinematography, the film is a window into a time lost in history. Despite the secrecy surrounding the doctor’s time in her country, the writer/director incorporates the facts available to formulate her own informed version of the story. Her great artistic achievement might be the most plausible retelling of the events one might ever get to see. Evoking a sense impending danger, The German Doctor is a challenging and enthralling masterwork. 

Read Sydney Levine's Case Study on The German Doctor (Wakolda)

Read more about all the 76 Best Foreign Language Film Submission for the 2014 Academy Awards

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  • Tim Baber | December 18, 2013 6:07 AMReply

    I actually met Mengele, he had the same gooseberry green eyes as this man in your picture, the same neatness, the same immaculate clothing. The moustache though was coarser by the time I met him. His older cheeks were deeply lined...deeply darkly lined as if someone had used an eyeliner pencil. Apparently this would be the trauma he saw, the flinching, the screwing up of eyes and cheeks, and the two spinal diseases he was known to suffer which his son noted in 1977 with him born in 1913 made him "shorter". It is all about pain. I met him in the context of researching theme parks and the use of sublimated trauma for surreptitious purposes as per Weltanschauungskrieg Leaks, my testimony I met him late in life against the reports he
    mooched about the Americas feeling hard done by. He chuckled and grinned and poked me in the Adam's apple lest I be one of his known unknowns. Lest I be a researcher hot after "his" story that has achieved so much as "perfected" by the NSA according to Will Filer in his book and website on psyops. Since my encounter, since realising who it thad been 9 years later, I have tried to find out everything about our man, (The West employed him for MK Ultra) for self preservation. Interestingly what he said has two versions...what I remember with my long term memory and the slightly off beam remark in a diary a few days later as I wondered who it had been. It took a 1977 photo of Mengele for me to reconstruct his and my history, and the 1985 exhumation was therefore a shill where the"official" facts started to fall like bowling pins.
    One interesting aside about his charm, which I witnessed...... despite his exploratory poke at my adam's apple to see if I had some trait he was interested in....if he were in the SS, if he were in some entrapment from the Vrill or Thule lot, he would be obligated by choice and by an act of
    obedience...he himself would have been programmed to insulate himself from the reality of what lay ahead as he explored the levels of trauma and what they could achieve within the then German Marionette Syndrome as taken over by whoever was powerful enough to use that secret
    revealed by war and captured by the Brits and Yanks. I have found I can get away with anything as long as I say something nice about these secret things, and what keeps coming to mind is that if Mengele had been programmed to exploit trauma to inhibit human beings to becoming "perfect dolls" , as he must have been. This is something concealed and revealed maybe by the cheek lines of stress. I have only seen such in Murdoch and Branson, and Ian Morton by the way. I claim Mengele to do his job had been programmed by the same techniques he perfected before the NSA automated those and others I cannot mention with spectrum hopping hypnosis.
    [as per Will Filer+NSA+psyops see google] That would mean Mengele, and everyone he and others have programmed, were so inhibited or disinhibited as to lack mensrea. Now, if that is offensive, think of the implications. Maybe despite my generosity the programming scene I describe, as thousands have who are escapees or refuseniks for a while have leaked away, have informed me, sustained by the same thing threatening me, all concerned can be "forgiven" as Eva Moses Kor has forgiven Mengele. That is a Mandelabrot mouthful, but it may be for some of us our only chance. Mengele wanted to live and function at 93 in 2002, and his mischief may be this system is one can stop competition between its Balkanisation as nations have stolen or sold or been robbed of their Mengele "charm". Any politician sentient enough to authorise this has a good reason.And therefore can be doubly forgiven, though he or they enslave us all to so few people it hardly seems to matter? No, it is worse than that. Tim Baber

  • Tim Baber, B.A., A.L.A. | December 18, 2013 5:34 AMReply

    I am just saying....with respect to the film industry and how careers are bent to the interests of the REALLY powerful, "Weltanschauungskrieg Leaks" is a small website concerned with one fact of history.... that argues one fact of history is wrong. From that fact ....which maybe someone in Mougins in France, near to the Cannes (Film Festivals) might be able to prove....many other facts depend. It is unlikely that any film celebrity or mover/shaker who has been to the Villa Almarin will know of this high debate. The reason? You have the name of the website and my name, Tim Baber. I am beachhutman on twitter. I am zee lone researcher who stumbled onto a fact of history by skill and bad luck, for this is toxic to those who do not respect history, the history of those sacrificed to the business of the silver screen or the trade of the magic bullet to , no , for, power. I am talking about why we do what we do.

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