My Best Enemy

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My Best Enemy
Directed by Wolfgang Murnberger
Sundance Selects
Opens January 11, IFC Center
Available on demand

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Getting even is wearying in My Best Enemy, a banal World War II thriller dependent on contrived role reversals. Victor Kaufmann (Moritz Bleibtreu), the son of a Jewish gallery owner, meets his estranged Aryan friend Rudi Smekal (Georg Friedrich) as a would-be benefactor. But that stilted power dynamic abruptly shifts after Rudi helps the Nazis to seize Victor's family's property—and send them to concentration camps. Even after that, Rudi and Victor continue to betray each other, as Rudi needs Victor to help him locate a rare Michelangelo drawing that Victor's father hid from the Nazis. So much of My Best Enemy is a variation on the following pattern: 1) Resourceful Victor gains power over sniveling Rudi and then abuses that power while mocking his reluctant companion; 2) Rudi gains the upper hand and does the same; 3) Go back to 1. All this is ostensibly justified in a scene in which, after Nazis mistake Rudi for Victor and subsequently beat Rudi up, Victor admits that he understands why Rudi likes being a Nazi, but director Wolfgang Murnberger and his co-writer Paul Hengge do nothing to flesh out their provocative themes.

 
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