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Schadenfreude and Mistaken Idenity
on April 5, 2013
Mein bester Feind (My Best Enemy) is a very enjoyable drama, complete with a HAPPY ENDING, something so rare with movies about WWII Nazi persecution of Jews. The central story concerns the betrayal of the friendship between two "blood brothers", one an upper crust Viennese Jew, and the other the son of the Kaufmann family's maid. The ubiquitous Moritz Bleibtreu plays Victor Kaufmann, the son of a very prosperous jewish art dealer. As the story opens in 1938, Victor's "foster brother" Rudi has returned to Vienna, just days before the Nazis annexed Austria. To complicate matters, both guys are in love with the same woman, but she loves Victor. Rudi, unbeknownst to his best friend Victor, has joined the SS, and is ordered to retrieve a reputed Michelangelo drawing from the Kaufmann Family. Der Fuehrer intends to present to El Ducce the drawing, so as to cement their alliance. THat's the setup for a very entertaining, exciting story. MY BEST ENEMY has everything: a surprise Schadenfreude ending, best friends betraying each other, Nazi death camp drama, secret loves, mistaken idenities, hidden rooms filled with renascance treasures, WWII military drama, dark comedy, suspense...EVERYTHING!
The acting thruout is mostly believable, even if the script has so much mistaken idenity it smacks of increduity. Several themes are tackled, such as class warfare, idenity crisis, true vs apparent love, and appearance vs reality. The character of Rudi (played by the actor who was the lead character's "best friend" in GOODBYE LENIN) is especially interesting. In order to make it plain that Rudi doesnt have the education and breeding, of the wealthy Viensians he hopes to socialize with, he speaks with a dialect of Austrian german so thick, that I couldnt understand anything he said. (Everybody else spoke clear high german.) However, Rudi is such a distasteful character, so filled with greed, jealousy and spite, that its incomprehensible why Victor doesnt see right thru him. Of course, the relationship of the two guys, is also symbolic of the civilized, artistic german character (ie VICTOR), being betrayed and almost destroyed by low class Nazi thieves (Rudi). There's a problem with the script, that caused my increduity of these mistaken idenities, as well as the blindness of the Kaufmann family to Rudi's evil nature. (I cant be more explicit without giving away spoilers.) That's why I dont want to rate the film 5 stars. Of course, how the german nation didnt see thru the evil nature of Hitler and the Nazi party, is just as difficult to believe. Overall, its a well produced, well directed drama, with an excellent ending unlike the typical WWII Jewish conscintration camp fare from the Austro-German film school.