My Neighbour Adolf


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

My Neighbour Adolf
"Both actors are masters of his kind of material and give the film a good deal more depth and nuance than is present in the script alone." | Photo: 2 Team Productions

Despite the various claims made by conspiracy theorists about occult ceremonies, flying saucers and other such unlikely interventions, the evidence that Adolf Hitler died in his bunker in 1945 is pretty solid. Compared with what historians usually have to go on, it’s remarkably clear. Evidence can be of limited use as a response to trauma, however, and given just how many people continued to live in fear of Hitler for decades after the war, it is perhaps not surprising that, each year, several sightings of him were reported, even after the point where he would almost certainly have succumbed to old age. They were particularly common in Argentina, where other prominent Nazis fled. This film, set in 1960, blends comedy and tragedy in addressing one such incident.

At the centre of it is Polsky (David Hayman), an elderly Jewish man who suffered horrific personal losses in the Holocaust and has responded not merely by becoming antisocial but by cultivating petty misanthropy into a fine art. He spends most of every day in his crumbling rural house with a high fence around it, refusing to talk even to the friendly postman, refusing to engage at al with a woman who comes round enquiring after the owner of the house next door, wanting to purchase it for a client. He likes it empty.

Copy picture

When, inevitably, the house is sold, neighbourly relations do not get off to a good start. The new arrival, Herman (Udo Kier), has a dog, Wolfie, which pushes through the fence and damages Polsky’s beloved roses, the only link he still has to a happy past remembered in the prologue. This is followed by a dispute over the position of the fence itself. It’s a chance incident in which Herman briefly loses his dark glasses, however, as Polsky sees his piercing blue eyes and is immediately transported (through his acting – nothing so crude as a flashback) back to a chess tournament, decades ago, when he encountered the führer face to face.

“Hitler had brown eyes,” the investigator to whom he reports it points out.

Did he? At first Polsky seems hopeless deluded, but in due course, the plot thickens, and viewers will find themselves less certain of their ground. With the investigators disinclined to cooperate, however, Polsky realises that we will have to find a way of getting close to his neighbour is he is to acquire evidence in support of his convictions. Whilst setting up an array of spying equipment, he also inveigles his way into Herman’s life, first as a chess opponent and then, gradually, as a friend. The difficulty is that although each man is keeping secrets, their friendship surprises them both, becoming something real.

There’s a weight of sorrow behind the comedy in this carefully balanced film, as Polsky’s trauma is plain to see and, in due course, we get insights into Herman’s suffering as well. Both actors are masters of his kind of material and give the film a good deal more depth and nuance than is present in the script alone. Whilst there are some scenes which viewers may find upsetting, the film is sensitive in its handling of trauma and its recognition of what is at stake. It’s also wonderfully droll in unravelling some of Polsky’s wilder fantasies.

What emerges is a film rooted in the horrors of the past but focused on recovery and on the effort it takes to hold onto one’s humanity. It’s a film which knows the importance of laughter and of being able to recognise the absurd, without losing sight of the underlying absurdity of the notions which led to all the horror in the first place; but it is most successful simply as a story about old men reckoning with what remains to them.

Reviewed on: 03 Nov 2022
Share this with others on...
My Neighbour Adolf packshot
A lonely and grumpy Holocaust survivor convinces himself that his new neighbour is none other than Adolf Hitler. Not being taken seriously, he commences an independent investigation in an effort to prove his claim.
Amazon link

Director: Leon Prudovsky

Writer: Dmitry Malinsky, Leon Prudovsky

Starring: David Hayman, Udo Kier, Olivia Silhavy, Kineret Peled, Danharry Colorado

Year: 2022

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Israel, Colombia, Poland

Search database: