[Film review] My Neighbour Adolf

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

Holocaust survivor Mr Polsky (David Hayman) is living in a run-down house in rural South America in 1960. Polsky keeps himself to himself, caring for little besides his black rose bush.  Next to Polsky’s house is one equally run-down, the only other property within kilometres.  Its long-empty status, which has suited Polsky well, comes to an end when a German, Mr Herzog (Udo Kier), moves in.  Polsky is horrified to recognise him as Adolf Hitler.

Determined that justice be done, and that the monster be brought to trial, Polsky goes to the Israelis.  But his expectations of immediate action are met with disinterest.  The Israelis regularly receive supposed sightings of Hitler, and Polsky has offered no proof of his contention, expecting to simply be believed.  So, if Polsky is to bring Hitler to justice, he must gather the proof that the Israelis need before they’ll make a move.  So Polsky gathers.  But when he is forced to interact with Herzog, the real challenges mount.

David Hayman, a Scottish actor, does a fine job as a Polish survivor of The Holocaust.  His character, Polsky, like so many other Jewish people, lost his entire family in the Nazi concentration camps and, with them, all that was meaningful and dear to him.  He has little to sustain him but memories and a determination to survive, and Hayman, largely through body language, demonstrates not only Polsky’s grit but also his unremitting grief for the loss of his family.

Udo Kier gives a very fine performance as Mr Herzog, a man in a complicated position.  Something about Herzog is clearly secret, hard, and amiss, which Kier delicately portrays beneath an intelligent, cultured, and even gracious and understanding exterior.

This is, in many ways, a quiet film.  Viewers who know of what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust will amply fill in all that is left unsaid and unshown in the film, but will bring to their viewing an understanding of Mr Polsky and of why he lives as he does, trusting no-one and relying on none but himself.  Revealing the complex nature of unspeakable grief, guilt, shame, and perhaps even of understanding and forgiveness, My Neighbour Adolf stands testament to the healing power of humanity.

Screening at Dendy cinemas.

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