Daring Nazi comedy applauded at Berlin film festival

An Austrian "Nazi satire" about a Jewish man who dons the uniform of an SS officer to save himself and his mother from the Holocaust was surprisingly well-received Wednesday at the Berlin film festival.

Daring Nazi comedy applauded at Berlin film festival
Photo: DPA

“My Best Enemy” stars one of Germany’s most popular actors, Moritz Bleibtreu, in a comedy that takes daring risks with its harrowing subject but was applauded at a packed press screening.

Director Wolfgang Murnberger, 50, said he was aware of walking a thin line with his take on the horrors of the Nazi era but said he believed audiences were ready for a new approach.

“I had thought that this material could only be dealt with like in ‘Schindler’s List’ in a feature film because that is politically correct,” he told reporters, referring to Steven Spielberg’s harrowing Oscar winner.

“But then I saw that you could do more than show Jews behind barbed wire and in concentration camp uniforms — the idea was that in a story like this one, the Jew can be the hero.”

Bleibtreu plays Victor Kaufmann, the scion of wealthy Viennese gallery owners who still believe they can use their influence to escape the Nazi killing machine.

But a childhood friend, Rudi Smekal, who grew up in the Kaufmann family villa while his mother worked there as a housekeeper, sees his chance in the rise of the Third Reich.

He joins the SS and sells the family out by promising to deliver a priceless Michelangelo drawing in Kaufmann’s possession, which Axis partner Italy is demanding.

The Nazis seize the sketch and deport the family but when the time comes for the handover to the Italians, an expert determines the confiscated piece is a forgery.

They demand Smekal fetch Kaufmann from a concentration camp and force him

to reveal the location of the original. But their plane crashes over Poland and in the ensuing confusion, Kaufmann tricks Smekal into giving him his uniform.

When German troops arrive, Kaufmann begins a dangerous game in which he has to play the part of a Nazi to save his own life and that of his mother.

The ensuing race to find the Michelangelo drawing and organise an escape veers into slapstick when Kaufmann must perform crisp “Sieg Heil” salutes and cut a dashing figure in his Nazi uniform to hide his true identity.

A happy ending sees Kaufmann vindicated, with Smekal getting his comeuppance, while the real Michelangelo turns up in a surprising location.

“It was difficult to maintain this balance between a comedy and a tragedy. I wanted to show glimpses of the real story – for example prisoners in a concentration camp– as the backdrop for a fictional story,” Murnberger said.

“I am an Austrian director – maybe that is why I dared to make this movie. I’m curious to see how it will be received in Germany.”

A lighter approach to the Nazi period in German cinema has proved a dicey prospect in the past.

Berlinale competition entry “Jud Süß” starring Bleibtreu as Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was loudly booed last year and 2007’s “My Führer – the Really Truest Truth About Adolf Hitler” featuring the Nazi leader as a bed-wetting crybaby was panned by critics.

However Italian comedian Robert Benini’s 1997 “Life is Beautiful” set during the Holocaust won three Academy Awards and was an international box office smash.

“My Best Enemy” is screening out of competition at the Berlin film festival, which wraps up on Sunday.


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Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

The holiday of Diwali kicks off on Monday. Here's where you can celebrate all around Germany.

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

With over 100,000 Indians in Germany, and over 175,000 people of Indian descent, it’s little wonder that Diwali – the famous five day Hindi festival of lights starting this year on Monday October 24th – is being celebrated all around the Bundesrepublik

READ ALSO: Indians in Germany: Who are they and where do they live?

Even the House of Parliament in Frankfurt is honouring the holiday for the first time with a special reception on October 30th.

Diwali takes its name from the clay lamps or deepa (the event is sometimes called Deepawali) that many Indians light outside their home. With the days shortening in Germany, there’s all the more reason to celebrate light — especially over lively music, traditional dance and authentically spicy Indian cuisine.

We have rounded up some of the top events to celebrate around Germany, both the week of Diwali and afterwards, stretching into mid-November. If you have an additional event to suggest, email us at [email protected]

October 24th in Heidelberg

Happen to be in Heidelberg? Then it’s not too late to head to the Sweet Home Project, which will be cooking up a storm starting at 6:30pm. The menu includes an assortment of Indian sweets and savoury dishes. The collective only asks that participants bring along a candle (and a hearty appetite).

If you miss this event, and are still craving some (really) spicy traditional cuisine, the Firebowl Heidelberg is hosting a Diwali party on October 29th, replete with lots of food and drink and Bollywood beats the whole night. 

October 29th near Frankfurt

For those who fancy a Feier with a full-buffet, this celebration in Dreieich delivers through an all-you-can-eat dinner with traditional fare. Starting at 5pm and stretching into the early hours of the morning, the festive feast includes traditional Bollywood music by Derrick Linco. There’s also a dance party for kids, who receive free admission up to seven years old and €25 up to 14 years. Normal tickets go for €40 per person.

A previous Diwali celebration of traditional dance and music in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

November 4th near Düsseldorf

On November 4th at 6pm, the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft Düsseldorf will be hosting a family-friendly party in nearby Ratingen with classical Indian music and dance, a huge dinner and Bollywood music led by DJ SA-ONE. Tickets cost about €40 each, but children under six receive free entry. 

November 5th in Bonn 

The Indian Students Association of Bonn-Cologne will be hosting its biggest event of the year: for €10, event goers can try an array of Indian food, play classic games and tune into cultural performances. 

READ ALSO: Moving from India to Munich changed my life

November 12th in Essen 

Whether you like traditional bhajans or meditative ragas, this concert will capture many of the classic sounds of Indian music with artists such as Anubhab Tabla Ensemble, Debasish Bhattacharjee and Somnath Karmorak taking center stage. The performance starts at 5pm and costs €10. 

November 12th and 13th in Berlin

Indian food fans will get to enjoy 12 stands devoted to Indian cuisine and products, all coming from the local Indian community. The weekend-long festival will also include stand-up comedy from the Desi Vibes Comedy Group. Karaoke fans will also enjoy singing along with the Sounds of India group, followed by an after party on Saturday. All this only costs €2 at the door.