Look Who’s Back (Er ist wieder da)
Tea: Rooibos Lemon
I am well aware that as of the time of writing this the movie version of Look Who’s Back is not planned to be released anywhere outside Germany and the Netherlands. However, I still want to write about this movie for three reasons: First, the book was an international bestseller and therefore should be well known (I haven’t read it yet). Second, the movie fits into the difficult times in Germany. And third, I just want to voice my opinion about it. With that being said let’s dive into this modern satire.
The premise for those who are unfamiliar with the book is that Adolf Hitler wakes up in Berlin in our present days. Of course, he is a bit confused at first. The changes between the Third Reich and now seem rather glaring to him, but he soon familiarises himself with the new circumstances and is ready to step into the broad daylight again. He is discovered by an out-of-luck reporter who takes him for a brilliant actor performing as Hitler. Even though Hitler never says that he is not the ‘real one’ no one believes him as it would simply be impossible. With that begins Hitler’s rise in the media. He is turned into a commercial success and on every TV show and even invades Youtube. But at his core he has not changed at all. Hitler is still Hitler and even though the people might be laughing they all admit that there is truth in what he says and thus, once more, the people of Germany start to agree with this man.
So far for the plot since I don’t want to spoil the entire thing. The overall development of the plot is a bit odd to say the least. While it does follow a stringent path near the beginning the further the movie progresses the stronger a meta-level discourse becomes. It is hard to say without spoiling it, let’s just say that it gets a bit convoluted near the end and not necessarily the good kind of convoluted. All the meta-levels work against rather than with each other and as a consequence a moment near the end loses its impact. But fret not, as the director made sure to include an ending that shows you just how horrifying the situation in Germany has become. While this last bit appears a bit polemic at first it does carry home the central message of the film and ends on a strong last note.
Do not be confused, however, the movie is not a two hour moral lesson. There is a lot to be laughed at, but also a lot to be ashamed of, if you have the bad luck of being German in this case. Parts of the movie are not acted, but simply putting the Hitler actor Oliver Masucci, who does an excellent job by the way, in a public space and recording how the people react to him and interact with him. These scenes are probably the unwanted highlight of the movie as they show the sinister extend of right-winged thoughts that have pervaded the culture. Some of these are truly gruelling to watch as you hold up your hands in disbelieve that people would actually say things like that. The story about Hitler climbing the media ladder is luckily entirely contained within the movie, for now at least… But there is an odd mixture between real and fake TV-shows that he appears in. While this on the on hand grants this movie a more believable background the fake shows and broadcasters give the entire experience a bit of a goofy touch as the fake ones are obviously meant to be a parody of existing institutions. However, they do so in such an over the top way that it loses credibility fast in comparison to the real TV shows. Albeit be it equally gruelling to watch.
The parts that are obviously meant to be laughed at are usually also pretty funny. But most of the time laughing equals sympathising or at least agreeing with Hitler and that is a strong device of the movie. A lot of people have started to accuse the book and the movie because in their minds Hitler is not something to be laughed at and sympathised with. But the generalization going on in that version is against the core theme of the movie. I do not agree with Hitler’s view in its entirety I agree with certain aspects. Agreeing that television is a remarkable invention that is only used to dull the minds of the viewers with the same monotonous shows every day is not agreeing to exterminate 6 million people. But here lies the beauty of the move, since these two are closer than one might seem. It shows that Hitler’s rise to power was not simply based on force alone, but by subverting the minds of the people. Just like this movie starts to make him more and more agreeable, but at some point one must simply draw the line. After all it becomes clear that all his joking and keen observations cannot hide his fascist nature.
The movie possesses a strong intertextual relation to A Clockwork Orange. This becomes apparent even during the first trailers. If your compare the trailer of Look Who’s Back and A Clockwork Orange you will recognize the identical music and similar editing. Of course, Stanley Kubrik’s masterpiece is hardly comparable as it possess a lot more variety and messages embedded in the trailer. None the less the similarity does not end in the trailer and continues in the movie as well. I would even go so far as to say that the final moments of the movie are much more horrifying and dark if one is familiar with the Ludovico Technique form A Clockwork Orange.
There are also a lot of other references to depictions of Hitler in the media. Obvious ones include clips, but a more subtle version is the incorporation of a scene from Downfall played now by Christoph Maria Herbst, who has depicted Hitler before as well. He does a great job and the scene is one of the more memorable moments in the movie, simply because it comes out of nowhere and fits rather well with the tone. There are, sadly, some parts of the movie I didn’t like as much. Apparently all German productions must use absolutely horrible effects and this movie is no exception. There are also some really flat jokes that do not fit within the satirical nature of the movie. Some actors were a questionable choice in my opinion and could have been replaced with other one. However, the important role of Hitler has been cast well and he does a great job of bringing this horror from the past back to life.
On the whole the positive parts far outweigh the negative ones and Look Who’s Back stands proud as a satirical picture about a sad truth. This is a movie that develops over its runtime and this transformation of dispositions and attitudes towards characters, towards Germany, and towards yourself is a deed that is rarely accomplished. I can fully recommend this movie, but at the same time want to inform all non-German viewers that not all of us would follow him again and there are still those with a bit of reflective thought left in their brains that can see history repeating itself. At the same time I cannot deny that remnants of his line of thinking still persist in our modern society and this movie does a great job of unearthing these hidden dispositions and laying them bare for everyone to see. I can only hope that the message of this movie is understood properly by everyone and maybe even causes some people to change their mind and make sure that he – no matter what form he might take – never comes back again.
Image sources in order of appearance:
- http://www.redcarpetreports.de/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/er-ist-wieder-da-poster.jpg (Last date of access: 02.11.2015)
- http://www.cinehits.de/images/trailer/yt_7fJ0Y-r0b_w_8.jpg (Last date of access: 02.11.2015)
- http://www.buffed.de/screenshots/original/2015/09/Screenshot_2015-09-24_17.36.59-buffed.png (Last date of access: 02.11.2015)
- http://www.kino.de/wp-content/gallery/er-ist-wieder-da-2015/er-ist-wieder-da-7-rcm0x1920u.jpg (Last date of access: 02.11.2015)
- https://i.ytimg.com/vi/vmEYKKAjICk/maxresdefault.jpg (Last date of access: 02.11.2015)