Movie Reviews

European Union Film Festival review: ‘My Best Enemy’

By Travis WongMovies - 02 May 2012 7:00 PM

European Union Film Festival review: ‘My Best Enemy’

Wolfgang Murnburger’s latest film tells the story of two lifelong friends, Rudi and Victor

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Details: 19 May, 9.30pm (in German with English subtitles)

While WWII dramas are far too numerous to mention, and have covered the war from almost every angle, the Austrian film ‘My Best Enemy’ does manage to have an original take. Part of the European Union Film Festival, has a wicked wit that distinguishes itself.

It does take its time setting things up, and the latter half of the film is where the film finds its voice and rhythm.

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Directed by Wolfgang Murnburger, ‘My Best Enemy’ tells the story of two lifelong friends, Rudi Smekal and Victor Kaufmann, during WWII. The wealthy Victor and Rudi, who is the son of his housekeeper, are good friends. When Rudi returns from Germany to Vienna, he warns the Kaufmanns about Hitler’s increasing power. He tells the Jewish family to transfer their wealth to Switzerland for safekeeping.

However, Rudi does have some self-interest. He has eyes on Lena, Victor’s girlfriend, and tells her that it is not a good time to marry a Jew. The still-trusting Victor, unaware of Rudi’s dealings, informs Rudi that the family has a Michelangelo sketch amongst its possessions.

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When World War II breaks out, Rudi joins the Nazis and informs the Germans about the priceless sketch. He hopes that the family will be allowed to emigrate to Switzerland as part of the bargain, but the Nazis capture the Kaufmanns and send them to a concentration camp instead.

Things go awry when the Germans prepare to give the sketch to Mussolini and discover that the sketch they have is a fake.

When Rudi retrieves Victor from the camp in order to make him reveal the location of the actual sketch, it sets the ball rolling for the movie. Suffice to say that there’s quite a bit of double-crossing, role-switching and Rudi gets his payback.

It’s also where the film starts to find its humour, as it plays switcheroo and the two talented actors get to play off one another. Murnburger has also managed to mine the situation for plenty of suspense, as Victor manages to survive one close call after another.

Starring two of Germany’s top stars, Moritz Bleibtreu and Georg Fridrich, ‘My Best Enemy’ is not as audacious and revisionist as Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds’, but the Nazis here do look like bumbling idiots.

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Bleibtreu’s Victor is supremely suave and perhaps a little too cool, while Fridrich’s Rudi is a hopeless bumbler that is constantly outplayed by his old friend.

The film also tries not to darken the mood by ruminating on the effects of the War, as it keeps its focus tightly on the two leads. Despite this, it still makes for a remarkably entertaining and sharp film, where Murnburger reveals that the difference between men might really be just skin deep.

The 22nd European Union Film Festival happens from 11 to 20 May at Golden Village VivoCity. Tickets available from 26 Apr 2012 at Golden Village box offices nationwide and on www.gv.com.sg.