fri 14/06/2024

My Neighbour Adolf review - this queasy comedy is not what the world needs just now | reviews, news & interviews

My Neighbour Adolf review - this queasy comedy is not what the world needs just now

My Neighbour Adolf review - this queasy comedy is not what the world needs just now

A light-hearted romp about a curmudgeonly Holocaust survivor and the mystery man next door

Nosy neighbours: David Hayman as Marek Polsky and Udo Kier as Herman Herzog

How many excellent comedies involving the Nazis are there? To Be or Not To Be, The Great Dictator and perhaps The Producers, but Jojo Rabbit was a mess and My Neighbour Adolf is no better.

And it’s also hard to know who the intended audience is for this curious co-production between Poland and Israel (where its Russian-born director Leonid Prudovsky lives). It was filmed in Colombia and most of its dialogue is in English. 

After a nostalgic pre-title scene involving a Jewish family gathering together to take a group photograph in pre-Holocaust Poland, we spin forward to an unnamed country in South America in 1960. The date is significant, it’s the year Adolf Eichmann was tracked down by Mossad agents who smuggled him out of Argentina to stand trial in Israel. Marek Polsky (David Hayman, doing his best Eastern European accent) reads the newspaper account of Eichmann’s capture with some interest. Now a bitter old man, Marek is the only survivor of that Polish family photograph. 

He lives alone on the edge of town, tending his precious roses and perfecting his chess game. When a bossy German lady announces that she’s organising the renovation of the derelict house next door, Marek doesn’t hide his irritation at having a new neighbour. It doesn’t help that the "important gentleman" then moves in with an Alsatian that breaks through the fence and craps on his flowers. 

Herman Herzog (Udo Kier with a ludicrous false beard) is none too friendly to his new neighbour and we are set for a cantankerous comedy of two grumpy old men battling over their respective turfs. It’s not quite Victor Meldrew territory, but one can see what attracted Hayman to the role as he gets to chew the scenery as Marek, while evoking pity when we glimpse the tattooed number on his arm. 

He becomes obsessed with the idea that he is living next door to a disguised Adolf Hitler, who has somehow survived that Berlin bunker. Books and photographs about the former Führer are scoured and Marek finds  plenty of parallels. Herzog paints mediocre landscapes, he’s left-handed, he’s a vegetarian, and he’s devoted to his dog, just like Hitler was to his Blondi. 

Marek sets about convincing the local officials that they have the world’s biggest war criminal living in their midst but gets fobbed off for lack of evidence. In an effort to gather proof, he develops an uneasy friendship with Herzog, bonding over games of chess with shots of vodka. All these Odd Couple scenes are accompanied with an intrusive klezmer-inspired score, which relentlessly signals that this film is a comedy. If the music was stripped out, it might have been funnier; nobody likes being nagged to laugh by comic scoring.

When the truth about Herzog is revealed, the film feeds into another queasy myth about Hitler (one that has been revived recently in relation to Putin) and ends like a damp squib. One has to hope that both Udo Kier and David Hayman had more fun making My Neighbour Adolf than an audience will have watching it. 

An intrusive klezmer-inspired score relentlessly signals that this is a comedy.


Editor Rating: 
Average: 1 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters