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by Wolfgang Murnberger
My Best Enemy is a feature film with an international scope, which draws heavily on mainstream US cinema. World War II and the Holocaust are recounted in Austria in an important film, in which, alongside the story of the two friends/enemies and the dramatic war, there is also a great homage to the art world and to beauty.
Friends or enemies?
How long can true friendship last? And, above all, how rare is it to find sincere friends? When life confronts us with difficult experiences, it is even easier to find out who we can trust and who, on the other hand, is always ready to betray us in order to gain advantage. The prolific director Wolfgang Murnberger has staged the story of a long-standing friendship in his feature film My best Enemy, presented out of competition at the Berlinale 2011 and based on the novel Wie es Victor Kaufmann gelang, Adolf Hitler doch noch zu überleben by Paul Hengge, who also contributed to the screenplay.
My Best Enemy, then, is set in Vienna in 1938. A particularly significant year for Austria, as we know. Viktor Kaufmann (played by Moritz Bleibtreu) is the son of a prominent art dealer of Jewish origin (Udo Samel) and together with his father runs an art gallery in Vienna. His best friend is Rudi Smekal (Georg Friedrich): the two practically grew up together and were even in love with the same woman, Lena (Ursula Strauss), who is currently engaged to Viktor. After the Anschluss, however, things change: Rudi enlists with the SS and even ends up betraying his friend, who had confided in him that he kept a very precious drawing by Michelangelo hidden in his house. The government desperately wants to get hold of the drawing, but when Viktor’s house is searched, it has mysteriously disappeared.
Conflicting feelings, together with a strong, very strong will to survive, therefore, are the pillars of this My Best Enemy. While Viktor is a loyal and honest person and has no doubts about what the right choices to make are, Rudi is an unscrupulous and selfish person, although, deep down, he has been genuinely fond of Viktor and his family. The entire feature film, in which there is no lack of important, unexpected twists and turns, revolves around Moritz Bleibtreu and Georg Friedrich. Their characters are multifaceted and constantly experience important inner conflicts. The two actors perfectly render their complex personalities without ever being excessive.
Wolfgang Murnberger, who has always dealt with all kinds of film genres, has perfectly depicted the adventures of the two protagonists, full of suspense and tension, on screen. His My Best Enemy is a feature film with an international scope, which draws heavily on mainstream US cinema. After the success of Stefan Ruzowitzky’s The Counterfeiters (for which Austria even won its first Oscar in 2008), World War II is recounted in Austria through an equally important film, in which, alongside the story of the two friends/enemies and the dramatic war, there is also a great homage to the art world and to beauty. Wolfgang Murnberger has once again hit the mark. My Best Enemy is a not at all predictable film, which deals with complex issues and keeps the viewer in suspense from beginning to end.
Original title: Mein bester Feind
Directed by: Wolfgang Murnberger
Country/year: Austria, Luxembourg / 2011
Running time: 109’
Genre: drama, historical, war
Cast: Moritz Bleibtreu, Georg Friedrich, Ursula Strauss, Marthe Keller, Udo Samel, Uwe Bohm, Rainer Bock, Karl Fischer, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Merab Ninidze, Mirko Roggenbock, Christoph Luser, Klaus Manchen, Claudio Caramaschi, Hubert Mulzer, Margherita Di Rauso, Marcello De Nardo, Serge Falck, Paul Matic, Alexander E. Fennon, Sami Loris, Jim Libby, Ilene Kreshka, Hanus Polak Jr., Jan Janga-Tomaszewski, Andreas Bieber, Wolfgang Pampel, Ian Towers, Christian Dieterich, Miguel Dieterich
Screenplay: Paul Hengge, Wolfgang Murnberger
Cinematography: Peter von Haller
Produced by: Aichholzer Filmproduktion, Samsa Film, Österreichisches Filminstitut