Cine Las Américas Review: Mr. Kaplan

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Héctor Noguera delivers a brilliant turn as Jacobo Kaplan in Álvaro Brechner’s sophomore feature, Mr. Kaplan. 76 years young, Mr. Kaplan is a well-known schlemazel from the Jewish community of Montevideo. Middle-class and married for 50 years, Kaplan nevertheless wonders whether he has done any deed of real significance in his lifetime (other than escape Poland in World War II). To rectify this, he decides to secretly hunt down a supposed Nazi, Julius Reich (Rolf Becker), who lives alone on the beach at the outskirts of town. Joining him on this quixotic journey is family friend Wilson Contreras (Néstor Guzzini), a former police officer turned drunken deadbeat. Together the two search for clues to Reich’s true identity in brothels and funeral homes, all the while plotting his kidnapping around the history of Adolf Eichmann’s capture and subsequent trial.

A clever adaptation of Don Quixote, Mr. Kaplan questions the history of the Jewish diaspora in the 20th century, while also highlighting the fictionality of historical tales. Expertly shot, with phenomenal sound-editing (the music for a stand-off between Reich and Kaplan echoes the iconic whistle from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and the opening and closing credits frame the film with Serge Gainsbourg’s 1975 hit, “SS in Uruguay”), Mr. Kaplan is a poignant tale of trauma and aging, friendship and family ties, and the everlasting desire to leave one’s mark on society.

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