Director: Wolfgang Murnberger
Screenplay: Paul Hengge & Wolfgang Murnberger
Producers: Josef Aichholzer & Jani Thiltges
Featuring: Mortiz Bleibtreu, Georg Friedrich, Ursula Strauss, Udo Samel Uwe Bohm
Duration: 100 min
BBFC Certification: 15
From the producers of the 2008 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, The Counterfeiters, My Best Enemy once again mines World War II and the plight of the Jews living amongst the Nazis at the time.
The film opens just before the start of the war when we are introduced to Victor Kaufmann (Mortiz Bleibtreu), the son of a wealthy Jewish art dealer. His best friend is Rudi (Georg Friedrich), an Austrian just beginning to get involved with the Nazi party. Near the dawn of war, Victor confides in Rudi that his family are in possession of a long-lost Michelangelo sketch worth a fortune. Word gets round to the Nazis of course through Rudi and they attempt to confiscate it to use it as a valuable negotiating tool against the Italians. This disloyalty separates the two friends and the Kaufmanns get sent to the concentration camps despite Rudi being promised they would be allowed to flee the country. We flash forward several years towards the end of the war and the Nazis discover that the Michelangelo they took was in fact a fake and track down Victor to get their hands on the original. When he and Rudi are the only survivors of a plane crash on their way to do so, Victor proceeds to use this as an opportunity to get his own back against his persecutors as well as gain freedom for himself and his remaining family by swapping identities with his former friend.
It’s a technically solid film that is hard to harshly criticise, but equally hard to fully recommend. The first half of the film is very by-the-numbers in it’s set-up of the film’s core premise and fails to particularly enthuse it’s audience. The second half becomes more interesting when the identity switch takes place, but this is marred by an inherent implausibility to it all. Surely somebody recognises one of the two characters when Victor takes Rudi to carry on with the missing art hunt in reversed roles and without wanting to draw upon superficial stereotypes, Victor looks a hell of a lot more Jewish than Rudi (who continuously begs the Nazis to believe that they are being lied to). The ending falls a little flat too as it’s ‘big twist’ could have been seen a mile off and an added convolution just before this seemed totally unnecessary.
In it’s favour, the film does have a refreshingly light quality to it which is unheard of in films dealing with the persecution of the Jews in Nazi-ruled areas of Europe. It doesn’t joke about the situation, but the film is more of a fun drama/thriller than a solemn damnation of the acts. As the filmmakers point out in the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD, the film can also be commended for not showing the Jews as victims as most films before have. Victor generally gives himself the upper hand here and neither he nor his family spend any time wallowing in misery over their situation. Instead they strive to do something about it and fight back in whichever ways they can.
As mentioned earlier on, it is a solidly made film. It looks and sounds good, with some classy cinematography and an interesting score that makes use of jazz from the era mixed with more cinematic and modern elements. Performances and direction are all pretty decent too. It’s a perfectly watchable drama that won’t offend and offers up a reliable night’s entertainment. It just never rises above that though, failing to ever be particularly special or memorable. So, worth a rental maybe, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy it.
My Best Enemy is released on DVD by Metrodome in the UK on 12th September. It’s only special feature is a 15 minute behind the scenes documentary which, like the film, is decent enough, but nothing special. The picture and sound quality were solid too.