Mein bester Feind [My Best Enemy] (2011)

Mein bester Feind is Wolfgang Murnberger‘s newest film, starring Moritz Bleibtreu, Georg Friedrich and Ursula Strauss.

Victor Kaufmann (Moritz Bleibtreu) has it all: he’s working in his parents’ well-regarded art gallery, he has a nice fiancée, Lena (Ursula Strauss) and his best friend with whom he basically grew up, Rudi (Georg Friedrich) has finally returned from a longer stay in Germany. Unfortunately, it’s also 1938 in Vienna and Victor is Jewish. When the nazis take over – and Rudi joins the SS – the Kaufmanns quickly lose everything. Among their possessions is a real Michelangelo which is coveted by the Nazis. But through some twists and turns, the real Michelangelo can be hidden and Victor makes Rudi swap places with him.

Mein bester Feind has a brilliant main cast and is well-paced, but that’s about it. The story itself focusses on the wrong things and is mostly… meh and there are so many wooden performances in the supporting cast, it could keep a middle-sized carpentry well-supplied for a year.

Austrian WW2 movies tend to be dark, humorless, tragic affairs. This movie is a change from that, and a change I generally quite enjoyed. It is rather unfortunate, though, that it falls a little flat. Especially because it focusses on the art storyline – and that’s just not that interesting. I would have loved to see more of the Victor/Rudi swap, but that segment is actually pretty short.

I have to admit it is quite surprising that it wasn’t shorter, actually, because it shouldn’t really have worked. The biggest problem was that Moritz Bleibtreu: speaks very German German. Georg Friedrich speaks very Austrian German. That nobody thought to say, “well, the SS guy is Austrian, let’s just see who speaks what dialect!” is beyond me.

But apart from the language issue, Moritz Bleibtreu was very good in the role, as were Georg Friedrich and Ursula Strauss. As could be expected from them – they’re just fantastic actors. Unfortunately, apparently the whole actor budget was blown on them and then there wasn’t enough left to hire decent supporting actors. Most lines were not spoken – they were read. And it hurt.

Murnberger – who is an experienced director – should have been able to keep a better handle on things in general. But apart from the pacing – the story moves along at quite a brisk pace that works very well – nothing really pans out the way it’s supposed to.

Summarising: watchable, but not much more.

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