Director Taika Waititi teaches us to laugh at the idiotic nature of war
No, this isn’t a review for Peter Rabbit 2… Today we’re focused on Taika Waititi’s nazi comedy Jojo Rabbit.
Jojo Rabbit is a film focused on a little boy named Jojo who idolizes his country and its ruler, Adolf Hitler in the midst of World War II. As he trains to one day become a soldier, Hitler appears to him as his imaginary best friend and Jojo dreams of being in his inner circle. However, Jojo has to question his values and priorities when he discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their house. Written and directed by Waititi, it is certainly an interesting movie when you think about its subject matter in relation to its genre; a comedy about Nazi Germany. Yet, somehow, Waititi pulls it off.
Waititi portrays Hitler with no regard for historical accuracy and instead plays an eccentric figure who encourages Jojo to be the best of the best. He’s exactly what a little boy’s imaginary friend would be, with no relation to the real person. This creates a distance between the actual historical figure and the version of Hitler Jojo has in his mind. This distance makes it clear that Jojo does not really love Hitler, but simply thinks he does. We never see the real Hitler, only the man interpreted through Jojo’s imagination. In that sense, the film poignantly explores ignorance and blind patriotism from the perspective of an impressionable young boy, a theme that carries weight today; through social media, many young people are encouraged to hate others before they even have a chance to learn about them. This can be seen on something as simple as a plethora of hate comments on a YouTube video to entire websites dedicated to hate groups. Jojo Rabbit follows this idea. It does not focus on nazism more than it needs to, it instead focuses on the outcome of its existence. Jojo Rabbit is a comedy with a purpose; to take a child unaware of what he really stands for and to put you in his shoes.
Along with its hilarity, Jojo Rabbit is also a very innocent film because of its perspective. There are many joyful moments as we see the world through a child’s eyes, and only as adults can we think of the repercussions of the situation around him. Roman Griffin Davis gave an excellent performance as Jojo, with great comedic timing and an ability to emotionally connect with the audience. At the age of 12, he’s got a huge future ahead of him, and I look forward to seeing where he goes next. Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson and Thomasin McKenzie also had notable performances in this film and made for a great supporting cast.
There were frequent and jarring tonal shifts throughout the film, where you would laugh one minute then feel completely shattered the next. Although these shifts were striking, I believe that they were necessary thematically. As Jojo’s perception of the world around him and of himself changes, so does the film.
Jojo Rabbit makes you laugh at the absurdities of hate but still forces you to look at the suffering that comes from that animosity. In that sense, Waititi is a genius. He’s able to make a hilarious comedy about Nazis that retains emotional resonance about its subject matter. Keep an eye out for Waititi in the future, I have a feeling he has tons more in store.
Graphic by @sundaeghost