Charlton Heston’s honest effort in the role of a Nazi death camp doctor is nearly buried in the overly busy and needlessly manipulative “My Father Rua Alguem 5555,” the story of a tortured son who tracks down his war-criminal father in the Brazilian rainforest. Neither the thoughtful approach the provocative subject deserves nor an inherently entertaining popcorn picture, pic has “specialty fest” written all over it, with some undiscriminating offshore bookings possible and modest cable/vid life.
It’s 1985 and Hermann M. (Thomas Kretschmann), whose unnamed yet notoriously evil father (Heston) may or may not be still alive, is persuaded by a lawyer, Paul Minsky (F. Murray Abraham), who reps New York’s Jewish community and a pair of twins who survived the medico’s ghastly Auschwitz experiments, to recount a 1977 encounter with his father at the title address somewhere in northern Brazil.
Tangled exposition then moves back and forth between the confrontations with the lawyer and with his father. They reveal that even though he’s now being hounded by the world press as complicit in his father’s crimes, Hermann — at the time he saw his father — couldn’t see past the bond of father and son to take matters into his own hands and rid the world of this now-reclusive monster. Hermann’s relative peace depends on the verification of some bones found in a cemetery, though regardless of this verdict, his actions will forever haunt him.
Stripped of an aggregate 15-20 minutes of needless flashbacks to Hermann’s childhood, as well as a distastefully sensationalistic nightmare sequence involving the young twins and an incomprehensible subplot, pic might almost work as a high-stakes generational face-off.
While Heston’s perf is neither as weirdly convincing as Gregory Peck’s Josef Mengele in “The Boys From Brazil” nor as genuinely creepy as Laurence Olivier’s fictive monster Christian Szell in “Marathon Man,” he puts it over with workmanlike precision, using a somewhat sibilant and consistent German accent, and sells his character’s casual monstrosity and drenched-in-denial logic. But he’s undone at nearly every turn by Kretschmann, who either on his own or under director Egidio Eronico’s instruction mistakes overacting for grief and rage. Abraham, after performing steadily, succumbs to a late-reels attack of melodramatic hamminess.
Tech package is bursting with inappropriate technique, including flashing, fast motion, jump cuts and unnecessarily portentous music. Through it all, locations in Brazil, Hungary, Italy and Poland are picturesque, when camera holds still long enough to see them.
Per novelist and co-scripter Peter Schneider, pic was inspired by real-life persecution of Josef Mengele’s son. Eronico claims to have labored over project for 12 years, with slickly printed press kit suggesting a post production delay by referring in Kretschmann’s C.V. to “The Pianist” as “upcoming.” Print caught at Berlin fest was English-lingo, with German subtitles only for the brief bursts of other languages laced throughout.