The German Doctor
Argentina New Cinema , Egyptian Theatre
Directed by Lucia Puenzo, The German Doctor (Wakolda) is a highly fictionalized version of Josef Mengele’s misadventures in Argentina. The film combines suspense, horror and coming-of-age, an unusual mix. When he first arrives, Mengele happens upon a family who become the first New World victims of his genetic experimentation. The dad, Enzo (Diego Parenti) is Latino but the mom, Eva (Natalia Oreiro) is conveniently of German heritage. Consequently, the children including daughter Lillith (Florencia Bado) are near-perfect Aryan specimens. Lilly is small for her age. She may gain her full height with the proper treatment from the good doctor. The family becomes drawn in and compromised, even the skeptical Enzo.
The film shows how Germans with Nazi loyalties insinuated themselves into Argentine society. As Mengele begins his experimentation, Adolf Eichmann gets captured by the Israelis, putting the doctor in jeopardy. Will Mengele’s status in the expatriate community be enough to protect him? Nora (Elena Roger), an alert staff member at Lilly’s German language school suspects what’s going on.
It’s a well made film with a strong psychological element. Young Bado is captivating in a difficult role. I was not convinced, however, that it was the early 1960s. For example, Enzo’s hair is too long for the era. Costumes were often from the wrong period, as well, feeling more like the 1970s. Those are minor points, but I was also unconvinced that a parent would allow experimentation on a child who looks completely normal.