The Argentinian Lucia Puenzo is best known for her writing, but she has directed three feature films. The latest is a brilliantly crafted story of pure evil based on Puenzo own 2011 novel and about a person who actually existed. Wakolda (2013) is set in Patagonia in 1960 and involves a German doctor who befriends a family and accompanies them on a long journey to a place called Bariloche where Eva (Natalia Oreiro), Enzo (Diego Peretti) and there children intend to start a new life by reopening a hotel that has been left to Eva, who her self was raised in its German speaking community. The property is on the edge of the beautiful Nahual Huapi Lake and very close to a rather secretive hospital.
Helmut Gregor, the knowledgeable elegant doctor, is their first paying boarder. He takes a rather unhealthy interest in the family’s daughter Lilith, (an impressive debut from Florencia Bado who does a great job of narrating the story) because of her small build, she was born prematurely and gives the impression of being around eight years old but who is actually twelve. As time goes on Enzo distrusts Gregor even more when he discovers his interest in his wife’s pregnancy - whom it turns out is expecting twins. What they are unaware of is the true identity of their guest. Is he what he seems, what does he enter in his journal, what is his relationship with the other German’s he meets, what goes on at the hospital and who are the people that are brought there by a sea plane which lands and takes off on the lake? It’s not until a local female photographer, who is also an Israeli agent from Mossad, takes an interest in the hotels guest that the truth finally comes out.
The film conveys an overall impression of menace that percolates every single scene. And its credit to the director that a parallel story that involves Lilith, Enzo and the German doctor in the design and mass production of identical perfect looking porcelain dolls (do they all resemble Lilith facially?) also adds to that menace. A lot of the movies ‘authenticity’ is due to the superb role-playing by Spaniard Alex Brendemuhl who plays suave German Doctor with an underlying threat that never seems far from the surface. An extremely interesting, tense thriller that look’s at the closed German society that existed in Argentina, a society that guarded it secret’s with pride and vigour. It is alleged that 6% of Germanys population left Europe at the end of WW2 and settled in this South American country!