[Florencia Bado as Lilith. Click for a larger view.]
The German Doctor (original title: Wakolda, dir. Lucía Puenzo, 2013) is a quietly terrifying film. The premise: in 1960, Helmut Gregor (Àlex Brendemühl), a German émigré doctor, takes a room in an Argentine family’s hotel. The family’s twelve-year-old daughter Lilith (Florencia Bado) finds the doctor fascinating. Indeed, with his dark mustache and perfect hair, he looks like a young girl’s idea of a movie star. The doctor begins to devote greater and greater attention to this family. He is concerned about Lilith’s short stature. He is concerned about her mother Eva (Natalia Oreiro), who is pregnant with twins. And he arranges to mass-produce the dolls that Lilith’s father Enzo (Diego Peretti) makes by hand. They have wind-up beating hearts.
The German Doctor reminds me of Victor Erice’s El espíritu de la colmena (1973) and Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943). A secret childhood world, an increasingly close relationship between a family and a magical benefactor who is not what he appears to be: these are the ingredients of a deeply disturbing story.
Like so many trailers, the trailer for this film is misleading: The Good Doctor is quietly terrifying. The slow pace and a preference for implication to statement make the film all the more powerful. In Spanish and German, with English subtitles.
[Wakolda: the name of Lilith’s doll. The film is adapted from Puenzo’s novel of that name.]
Thursday, January 15, 2015
By Michael Leddy at 8:52 AM