Jojo Rabbit: Outperforming its (many) risks


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Taika Waititi, director and role of Adolf Hitler has released his most controversial project yet: "Jojo Rabbit," a relatively unsung anti-hate satire from the places and faces of... Nazi Germany?

Natalia Mora, Memorial Copy Editor

Acclaimed director Taika Waititi, known for his successful flicks “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” and “Thor Ragnarok,” invokes a stinging satire tackling anti-bigotry from its root through his newest political satire “Jojo Rabbit,” released Oct. 18 nationwide.

Waititi’s film follows a 10-year-old boy and Hitler Youth Member-in-training named Jojo Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis). Blindly enamored by the propaganda of Nazi Germany, Jojo is challenged by a new perspective on his ignorant ideals when he discovers his single mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) is providing illegal Anne Frank-esque refuge in the attic to a Jewish girl Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie).

The commentary tugs on the juxtaposition between Jojo’s inner drive towards bolstering the Nazi mindset, represented by his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), and a unique view from Jewish refugee Elsa on how the Jewish people aren’t as they seem.

What ensues from this appetizing premise is a tragically rude awakening of a plucky child scarred by his people, forced to expose his eyes to the hearts he was psychologically conditioned to shun and antagonize and to admit to himself that, of no fault of his own, he’s fighting for the wrong team.

“Jojo Rabbit” made $10.4 million worldwide as of Nov. 10. Upon first description, this movie is sure to invoke cringing unease in the common public. As depicted by countless products of media over the decades, historical fiction on the events of the Holocaust tends to be a hit or miss to its audience.

Projects surrounded on this subject, especially when taking the perspective of the blasphemous hate group that killed millions during the Holocaust’s progression, can result anywhere on the range between centennial masterpiece and grossly anti-semitic atrocity in the critic’s circle. 

It came with no question that the film, given its subject material, would call upon a sea of conflicting discussions. That’s not to mention the needle-thin tightrope Waititi had to balance when introducing humor into the mix.

Despite the potentially career-breaking risk and each half-baked doubt in my mind, Waititi executed the film masterfully. “Jojo Rabbit,” borne of a time period of senseless homicide and tragedy, springs up from the grit like a newly grown seedling, a new take on anti-hate that’s never quite been tackled this way before.

Every subject in the film, no matter how close-minded and hateful, was attributed proper respect unless their character acted as a purely static punchline character to highlight the dissonance of the Nazi movement, like Fraulein Rahm (Rebel Wilson) or Captain Deertz (Stephen Merchant). This technique in question especially manifests itself through Jojo’s mentor and Nazi general Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell), a character that at first seems two-dimensionally patriotic for his war purpose, but shells out an ominously dynamic viewpoint on human life as the film progresses.

The writing, cinematography and actors work in tandem to convey a steady grayscale effect as the movie gradually grows bleaker, symbolizing the boy’s slow realization of how twisted his Hitler Youth cult is. It is such an effect that makes the experience of this film overwhelmingly heartbreaking at its climax. The steady pacing towards Jojo’s enlightenment is as jarring as it is elegant.

Waititi’s humor, astonishingly, never forgets its place. I scrutinized this film, as did many critics, seeking a hole where “Jojo Rabbit” went too far. The risk was enormous, even asymptotic at times, but never did it hedge hate at any one interest group or stain Germany’s image.

The key to this was its functionality at addressing prejudice instead of criticizing those who dealt it, causing the message to be removable from Nazi Germany and apply to all races, colors, creeds and cultures. “Jojo Rabbit’s” jokes target the hypocrisy of racism, a strategy that’s refreshing to see in an age where tease-based comedy is so common in cinemas.

I initially gave Waititi my 108 minutes to spectate a risky tightrope stunt of a film, with the underlying desire he would prove me wrong. I did not expect such a canvas of beauty and misery, ignorance and unity, to elicit such a powerful reaction from me. And I truly did not expect to laugh, to cry and to ponder the human condition during this roller coaster ride of a film.

Indeed, “Jojo Rabbit” should not be viewed in any format other than from its first minute of action to its last, but its narrative is executed with such self-awareness, caution and compassion that it’s impossible for me to slander in good faith.

This political satire, whether or not it be a product of its perilous circumstances, is a spectacular triumph for the art of cinema and easily one of the best satires of the decade.


Contact Natalia Mora at [email protected]