"Waititi’s take on the horrifying events of World War II in Jojo Rabbit are the expression of what true genius and artistry really are"
Enthusiastically acclaimed at the Toronto Film Festival, Jojo Rabbit is a masterpiece of dark comedy which analyses one of the darkest moments in history involving Nazi Germany, and does so with remarkably clever humour.
The story revolves around Jojo, a young German child who is enrolled in a Nazi youth camp to learn how to fight against Jews. To cope with the ever present peer pressure and the high standards designed by Hitler, Jojo relies on his imaginary friend Hitler himself to give him direction and pep talks on how to be the perfect Nazi.
However, life has other plans for him, when Jojo discovers that his mother is hiding and helping a young Jewish girl in his house. Through hardship and conflicted emotions, he has to face the reality of war and fight against what he was always taught as right and learn that a superior race doesn’t exist after all.
Directed by Taika Waititi, who has also carved out a brilliant role for himself; the role of imaginary Hitler, Jojo Rabbit almost immediately reminiscent of a Wes Anderson movie with colourful settings and sharp cuts between one scene and the other.
The tone of the film if also quiet clear from the beginning; as the story is told through the eyes of a child, the movie could not be serious and gloomy. Dark comedy and humour are used extensively throughout the film, while still leaving out space for serious moments.
Using comedy to send across a deep message is not something used much before, however, with Jojo Rabbit it reaches new levels of satire that allow the audience to laugh about topics that are still pretty real and problematic, since history always tends to repeat itself.
Each character is a caricature and over-exaggeration of Nazi Germany’s reality and what was taught to children at that time. Racism, military youth camps and war all seem absurd when painted using sarcasm and humour, however that doesn’t mean that the film is making light of the Holocaust or the tragic consequences of war and rebellion. On the contrary it makes the message of equality, love and peace even that much stronger.
The cast ensemble embrace the challenges and the tone of the film completely. Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, Waititi, Rebel Wilson and Scarlet Johansson all do a fantastic job. Their comedy timing is perfect and each of them brings something unique to their characters. Especially Rockwell and Waititi, who have some particularly hilarious moments as well as some serious and more realistic ones.
A special mention goes to Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie, playing Jojo and Elsa. Roman is in every scene and the artistry in which he is able to switch from a comic scene to a more dramatic one is outstanding for a child his age. Both him and Thomasin build up their performance on Jojo and Elsa’s relationship, evolving and changing throughout the movie until the very last scene which will make people laugh and cry at the same time.
Although it might feel weird to laugh at a group of people “Hailing Hitler” or watching a group of kids being trained on how to throw grenades and recognise a true Jew, Waititi’s take on the horrifying events of World War II in Jojo Rabbit are the expression of what true genius and artistry really are. This film is the perfect example in highlighting that there is no better way to convey a strong message than using humour and comedy.