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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The German Doctor - A Film Review

I watched a historical drama this morning that, while not classified as a horror film, was still pretty terrifying. It was called The German Doctor, and it is an Argentinean film from 2013 about a family in 1960 who take in as a house guest a charming and friendly German doctor who turns out to be Josef Mengele under an assumed name. Mengele had committed atrocious acts against Jewish people in the Holocaust, believing in a "pure" genetic race and conducting genetic experiments on them. He gains the trust of the family (though the father is often suspicious of him), especially their 12-year old daughter, and convinces the family to allow him to give them "medicine" in order to help the child grow and the pregnant mother to carry her twins. He also funds the father's creation of handmade dolls, but Mengele has them designed to look like Aryan children with blue eyes and blonde hair in braids.

The film's story was horrific because the doctor seems so trusting, and acts really kind and caring, and he would be trusted as a doctor to know best for the family's health. The film has a slow but suspenseful pace, and it is terrifying to watch this person, who committed atrocious acts against humanity, continue the same pattern in a new place while evading authorities. A personal highlight for me was that it was an archivist who uncovered his identity through her research.

The actor who played Mengele (his cover name is Helmut) was phenomenal. He didn't do any bad guy cliches, just playing a man who absolutely believed in a "pure" race and did what he thought was right, but with no consideration towards other people's pain or protests. That is a much more difficult role to play, a villain who sees themselves as the hero in their own story and that they are in the right.

The film is fictional, but Mengele really did run away to Argentina post-WWII and evaded authorities while continuing to experiment on children and pregnant women. He drowned in 1979 off the coast of Brazil, sadly never brought to justice like other captured Nazis.

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