Film & TV

Review: Jojo Rabbit

By Denise Dogan

Taika Waititi recently won an Oscar for most adapted screenplay in the recent award show that took place in February for his amazing film Jojo Rabbit. His screenplay deservedly won this title as it underlined so many issues that took place in Nazi Germany. Nonetheless, this does not mean it was a flawless film.

When I started watching Jojo Rabbit, I couldn’t believe the amount of nationalism that was placed into the small 10-year-old body of our protagonist Jojo. He joins the Deutsches Jungvolk (German Youngsters) with an excited attitude in hopes of going to war one day. He even argues he wants to go to war after a grenade blew up at his feet. His aggressive stance towards his mother for protecting a young Jewish girl seems to outline the level of brainwashing that really did take place in Nazi Germany. The fact his imaginary friend was Adolf Hitler was most likely the most comical point of the film. He finds solace and pride in befriending Hitler and asks him for opinions. This was an excellent metaphor for the children in Nazi Germany who were brainwashed by German propaganda. They had Hitler in their minds, feeding them lies and manipulating their train of thought. The amount of dedication he shows to the ‘Fuhrer’ is amazing. Although he acts very tough, when asked to kill a rabbit he can’t muster up the courage to hurt a living thing. Thus, acquiring the nickname Jojo Rabbit.

Despite the amount Nazism he exudes, it would be ignorant of us to say this wasn’t a satirical comedy. We’ve seen many World War 2 films in our lives, there have been very popular ones. We’ve even seen ones from the German point of view. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas for starters. We sympathise with the children, it’s a smart way for us to empathise with them. However, I couldn’t name you one that ridiculed Nazi Germany from the perspective of a child. Sure, there have been films that ridiculed Nazi Germany, Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds does that magnificently. Yet, I sat there amazed at the level of satire this film involved; all from the perspective of a child.
We find it funny how a 10-year-old is determined to serve his country. The scene we are introduced to Elsa for the first time was exceptionally genius. The use of cliché horror film cinematography really added to the affect in which Germans perceived Jewish people in. Waititi smartly inserted scary narrative and stereotypes about Jewish people that a 10-year-old child is most likely to believe. It almost sounded like a scary night-time story child were told, “enjoy the taste of blood” or “demons.” It was ridiculous and comical but, in some sense, in the back of our minds we do believe Nazi German children were told this and believed it. The roller coaster this narrative takes us on is truly heartfelt. We are shown how a child pulls himself out of manipulation, developing the ability from right and wrong. The iconic scene in which Jojo finally stands up to his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler is amazing to watch, as we see the way this child musters up the courage to stand up for what he believes in.

I can appreciate the message Waititi sends us through this satirical comedy, however I must say the cliché is still apparent. It is difficult to assume that humanity for man kind can be achieved through a child. Also, to understand that Jewish people are human like anyone else why is it the protagonist needs to get to know one, to understand this? I can absolutely see what this film is trying to teach us about the purity of children. However, it did make me wonder. Children are easily impressionable; what you tell them they will believe. It’s why I found Jojo’s resolution at the end so pure and filled with so much emotion. Children are only taught hatred, it’s simply not in their nature.