I initially resisted seeing this movie mainly because of my unfounded preconceived idea that it was nothing more than a silly comedy about World War Two in Nazi Germany.
This Best Adapted Screenplay winner at the 2020 Academy Awards, is a skilfully presented black comedy/historical drama/satire as well as a young boy’s ‘coming of age tale.
Taika Waititi’s screen interpretation of Christine Leunens’ Holocaust based novel Caging Skies tastefully retells the disturbing story with the injection of a little comedy relief without making light of the terrible events that took place.
This tempered approach pokes fun at the myth of the German Aryan master race making the confronting story a little more palatable for a younger generation that is often reality-sensitive.
Set during the final year of the war in a small German town it revolves around the confusing observations of ten-year-old Johannes ‘ Jojo Rabbit’ Betzier ( Roman Griffin Davie) and his attempts to fit in with the nasty Nazi’s running one of Hitler’s youth camps.
Teased and ridiculed by the camp leaders because of his sensitive ways, Jojo regularly tries to find refuge in the demented advice from his unconventional imaginary friend, a chain-smoking, wimpy, confidence lacking, child-like, Adolf Hitler (Director/Writer Taika Waititi)
After foolishly taking Adolf’s advice to behave like a good little German soldier, Jojo suffers an injury that excludes him from further camp activities.
Left at home to recover while his loving mother (Scarlett Johansson) secretly spreads anti-Nazi propaganda pamphlets around the town, he discovers a teenage Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in the wall of his dead sister’s bedroom.
Gradually he learns that this so-called ‘evil Jew’ is his only true friend and his imaginary mentor is the epitome of everything that he does not want to be.
Constantly conflicted between his compassionate nature and the influential hate-rants of the clearly insane leader of the Third Reich, Jojo eventually discovers that the Jude in the wall is not the ‘demon’ that the youth camp leaders like Fraulein Rahn (Rebel Wilson) claim them to be.
But not everything is as you would imagine, especially in wartime. Surprisingly even Captain K, (Sam Rockwell) the snaps-sipping, constantly disheveled, commander of the youth camp manages to display some unexpected kindness towards Jojo. His actions show us that perhaps not all Germans are evil Nazi monsters.
Outside the house, the horrors of wartime Germany are never far away and as the Allies, and the Russians draw closer the once unshakable confidence of the Reich and, its brainwashed followers slowly diminish.
Although there are moments of poignant satirical humour such as the one-liners beautifully delivered by Jojo’s likable youth camp friend Yorki ( Archie Yates), this is also a serious social commentary blatantly remaindering us of the shameful slaughter of millions of innocent Jews.
I’ve seen many wartime movies over the years, and in an oddly quirky way this one reminded me of The Diary of Anne Frank with a touch of The Producer’s ‘Springtime for Hitler…’ thrown in.
Not everyone will approve of its style, but no one can dispute that in its unique way, it teaches us all that just because something is the popular opinion doesn’t always make it right.
Hopefully, by keeping this disturbing story alive, it will help prevent it from ever happening again.
Photo Design&Concept by Beata Gombas (c) 2020
Click the link below to view a trailer