Dir.: Alvaro Brechner; Cast: Hector Noguera, Nestor Guzzini, Rolf Becker
Uruguay/Spain/Spain 2014, 98 min.
Uruguayan filmmaker, Alvaro Brechner is perhaps best known for his multi-award winning comedy: Bad Day to Go Fishing. His second feature Mr Kaplan is Uruguay’s official submission to next year’s Academy Awards. It centres on an emigrant Jew from Europe. At 76, he’s living out his late-life crisis in a small seaside town in Uruguay, very similar to the one in Pablo Stoll’s Whisky (2004). Jacob (Noguera) has lost interest in his family, particularly his two sons who bore him with their quarrels (one a total conformist, the other an equally convinced outsider) and he often fights with his wife Rebecca (Nidia Telles), who tries to keep his diet under control. Then, one day he discovers the beach-bar owner is German, old enough to have been a Nazi, and overnight Jacob enlists the help of portly ex-cop Contreras (Guzzini), to mount a ‘war-crime’ case against him. Jacob, seeing himself in the news as a self-styled heir to the Eichmann hunters, succeeds against all odds with his companion playing Sancho Pansa to his Don Quixote.
But after having captured their prey, they find out why “the German” is running away: he is a Jew, having served in a concentration camp as a “Kapo”, meaning he was selected by the Nazis to do some of their dirty work for them. To refuse this appointment, would have meant immediate death for any inmate. The ex-Kapo, tired of running away from hunters and himself, decides to take his own life and in an extraordinary twist of fate finds salvation.
A small film with its heart in the right place where all the characters (apart from Rebecca) appear to be more or less lost; struggling for an identity, running from the past, and ultimately themselves. Jacob, bored with his bourgeois life-style, suddenly decides to become a hero at the wrong time of his life. Whilst the consequences of his actions could have been much harsher, when he finally finds himself back in the midst of his family, he looks grumpier than before, not at all relieved to be alive.
MR KAPLAN has a some fine performances, a bone-dry take on life, a vibrant camera capturing the action from interesting angles and a stringent script, which makes the audience root for Jacob because he is such a lovable anti-hero. AS
THE UK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 6-23 2014 NOVEMBER NATIONWIDE