In “My Neighbor Adolf,” a Polish Holocaust survivor living in South America suspects that the belligerent German who has just moved in next door could be none other than the Führer himself. How can that be? Hitler committed suicide in his bunker at the end of the war. Or did he? Director Leon Prudovsky’s mediocre mind game pits David Hayman against prolific German character actor Udo Kier in a “Sleuth”-style two-handed game. But the tonally inconsistent film is unprepared for its own premise: If the man’s guess is correct, what does it mean to make friends/foes with evil?
Years earlier, Malek Polsky (Hayman) sat across from Hitler at the World Chess Championship in Berlin. He swears he’d recognize “those dead blue eyes” anywhere – and now they’re staring straight at him over the rickety wooden fence that separates their two properties. (The film is set in 1960, the year Israel captured Adolf Eichmann in Argentina.) In order to prove his theory, Polsky must get this suspicious new neighbor (Kier), who calls himself “Herman Herzog,” to get his reveal secret past.
This isn’t the first time Udo Kier has played someone who could be Adolf Hitler. In the bizarre half-hour short “Mrs. Meitlemeihr”, Keir demonstrates how Hitler could try to hide in London if he had survived the war: by disguising himself as a drag. In the intentionally campy Z-class Nazis-on-the-moon satires “Iron Sky,” he is victorious in space. And in the upcoming second season of Amazon Prime’s “Hunters,” Kier appears as the world’s most notorious war criminal who finally faces justice.
It’s the fate of virtually every German actor in Hollywood to be cast as Nazis (or worse, given the sadistic villain he played in Dragged Across Concrete). Kier – who began his career portraying Baron Frankenstein and Count Dracula in two Andy Warhol-produced sexploitation classics – is not afraid to portray cinema’s darkest characters. But is Herr Herzog really Adolf Hitler? That’s the million dollar question in a film that would have been better off cashing smaller checks.
With funding from Israel, Poland and Colombia, this odd multilingual affair has the grimy, gray look of early genre films, which has the odd effect that Polsky’s life all these post-war years looks as bleak as most Holocaust films. Cinematographer Radek Ladczuk’s palette is reduced almost to black and white, right down to Polsky’s prized roses: rare beauties with petals the color of pure carbon.
Tending to these plants is practically the only joy he gets in life, having lost his family to the Nazis all those years ago – so it’s no surprise he’s upset when a lawyer (Olivia Silhavy) with Stark German accent stands in front of his door and looks at him Rent the neighboring property for a “very distinguished gentleman”. The new tenant (played by Keir in a sewn-on Leo Tolstoy beard) owns a German shepherd who immediately goes over to Polsky’s garden and defecates on his flowers.
At times, My Neighbor Adolf seems quite sophisticated in its treatment of the subject (consider the quirky way in which Polsky’s concentration camp story is revealed), while at other points the film devolves into weird gags on Home Alone. -Level tends, like Polsky wants revenge by trying to urinate on Herzog’s car – only his bladder is so unreliable that he can’t carry out his plan. Stranger still, Polsky, after reading up on Hitler’s distinctive traits, decides to verify that Herzog only has one testicle, as Hitler allegedly did.
Such questionable touches aside, the film unfolds like some seriously cheap “rear window,” in which Polsky snoops on Herzog from his upstairs window through a telephoto lens, gathering evidence for the non-aid authorities. After his neighbor breaks out a chessboard, Polsky suggests they play together again. These sessions bring the two strangers closer, resulting in an uneasy kinship that complicates their dynamic while giving both actors additional dimensions to explore in the too-lean script.
Prudovsky and co-writer Dmitry Malinsky have a logical explanation for Herzog’s backstory, though it’s a serious disappointment when compared to over-the-top Nazi hide-and-seek thrillers like Marathon Man and Apt Pupil. This project is psychological in nature rather than suspenseful, which is admirable if disappointing in the end. Rather than escalating into a dramatic and potentially violent confrontation, the film seeks to offer its protagonists a break from the trauma they have endured – to bury the past. If only it were that easy.
https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/my-neighbor-adolf-review-udo-kier-1235334160/ Review of “My Neighbor Adolf”: Udo Kier plays a man who could be Hitler