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BERLINALE 2011 Out of competition / AU-LU

My Best Enemy: Michelangelo and Nazi uniforms

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My Best Enemy: Michelangelo and Nazi uniforms

Austrian director Wolfgang Murnberger, whose previous two films, The Bone Man [+see also:
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and Lapislazuli, screened in sidebars in Berlin, graduates to the official selection with his historical drama My Best Enemy [+see also:
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.

One of the German-language area’s biggest stars, Moritz Bleibtreu, plays Victor Kaufmann, the son of a well-to-do Jewish family that is in possession of a priceless Michelangelo drawing. His childhood friend is Rudi Smekal (Georg Friedrich, also seen in Berlinale entry Above Us Only Sky [+see also:
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), the son of servants who was almost treated him like one of the family.

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Things get complicated when Hitler annexes Austria in 1938 and it is discovered that Rudi has been a member of the Nazi party for some time and has now been put in charge of confiscating the Michelangelo drawing from the Kaufmanns.

Though clearly set against a very dramatic backdrop, the screenplay by the director and writer Paul Hengge, working from his own novel, finds moments of humour and irony in the story, even though things grow increasingly bleak as the film picks up again several years later, with the fate of the Michelangelo drawing used as an excuse to follow these friends-turned-enemies over a longer period of time.

The entire film is impressively mounted but its frequent tonal shifts and rapid-fire pace don’t give the story the right kind of momentum and respect it deserves. A Nazi uniform switch comes off as a rather facile plot device.

Bleibtreu, always an affable presence, has found an excellent man opposite him in Friedrich, and their complicated rapport indeed feels real.

The film is produced by Josef Aicholzer of Vienna-based Aichholzer Filmproduktion, also behind Oscar winner The Counterfeiters [+see also:
film review
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film profile
]
, in co-production with Jani Thiltges from Luxembourg outfit Samsa Film.

The film is sold internationally by Beta Cinema, who have already sold rights to Metrodome (UK), Czech Republic and Slovakia (Hollywood Classic Entertainment) and several Asian territories. Filmladen will handle the local release next month.

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