A 10 year old fervent Nazi youth, Jojo (played by Roman Griffin Davis), struggles to find his place in the declining Third Reich. Jojo is a young fatherless child, being raised alone by his mother Rosie, played by Johansson, coping and working his way through life. This black comedy satire set in Nazi Germany brings a surprising level of balance of absurdity, seriousness, disgust, as well as heartwarming and touching moments. It is a unique style of film that can be attributed to filmmaker, Taika Waititi.
Jojo Rabbit is part of a short list of Nazi Holocaust films that takes a satirical look at Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. A film that comes to mind that would be on that short list is Life is Beautiful. Jojo Rabbit, however, takes a different viewpoint and follows the life of a member of the Hitler youth, Jojo, played by Roman Griffin Davis.
Taika Waititi plays the role of Hitler as well as the films director and writing the screenplay. His role of Hitler is obviously not an accurate representation, but instead a purposeful interpretation highlighting the lack of information Jojo actually knows about his “idol”. Waititi said in a round table interview with The Hollywood Reporter, that his portrayal was intentionally lacking in research as to “not give him the satisfaction”.
That version of Hitler that I wrote shares nothing with the real guy other than that mustache, because he is conjured from the mind of a 10-year-old, so he can only know what a 10-year-old knows. I had no interest in writing an authentic portrayal, even though I played him, too. Because I just didn’t think he deserved it. And I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of me actually having to read about him and study his nuances and mannerisms. I was like, “Screw this guy. I’m not going to do that.”1
As the discussion continues and Stephen Galloway, Interviewer with The Hollywood Reporter, asks, “but aren’t you worried that in truly fictionalizing him and turning him into a buffoon, you may be diminishing the threat?” Waititi responds with “Not worried at all”. Anthony McCarten, Two Popes, jumps in and adds an interestingly simplistic definition of satire.
But that’s what satire does. You invert. So, you make someone who is unserious serious, you make the serious unserious, and that’s how you secure power. That’s the nature of satire.1
The comedic style of Waititi shines through like much of his other films, like: Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Eagle vs Shark, even Thor: Ragnarok. The bold decision to take on this subject lends its success to the implementation and execution of satire throughout the film, beyond just the portrayal of Hitler.
The comedic aspects of the film do not overshadow the powerful messaging. Even with the child-like Hitler and antics of Captain Klenzendorf, played by Sam Rockwell, that add the comic relief, there is still an ever present fear and seriousness that lingers in the background. This dichotomy that exists throughout the entire film creates scenes that quickly transition from jovial and carefree to dark and somber. The film truly follows the life of a child experiencing his childhood in a very real and intense adult world.
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Cinematography: Mihai Malaimare Jr.
Screenplay by: Taika Waititi
Based on: “Caging Skies” – Christine Leunens
Edited by: Tom Eagles
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Runtime: 1h 48m
Genre: Comedy, Drama, War
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
1 – Galloway, S. (2019, November 26). “Fiction Means Freedom”: Taika Waititi, Lorene Scafaria and the Writer Roundtable. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/taika-waititi-lorene-scafaria-writer-roundtable-1257258