Friday, 3 August 2018

Look who's back (4½ Stars)

This is a German film about the return of Adolf Hitler to modern Germany. It's made in a similar way to the films "Borat" and "Bruno" by Sacha Baron Cohen. Most of the film is scripted, but it contains parts in which members of the German public, some of them well-known, are caught off guard when they meet the actor Oliver Masucci dressed up as Adolf Hitler.

In 2014 Hitler suddenly reappears on the site of his Berlin bunker. He has no idea how he got there. He stumbles around, disoriented by modern technology, and he's considered to be a drunk or a madman. Eventually he takes refuge in a newspaper kiosk. The kiosk's owner allows him to stay for a few days, and he spends his time reading to find out what's happening in the world today.

A free-lance journalist, Fabian Sawatzki, meets Hitler by chance and travels round Germany with him, from Sylt to Munich, before returning to Berlin. Sawatzki doesn't believe it's really Hitler, he just thinks he's dealing with a brilliant Hitler impersonator. Wherever they go Hitler talks to people, showing he understands their problems, and they grow to like him.

Back in Berlin, Hitler becomes a television sensation. His popularity rises in leaps and bounds. After a minor setback he writes an autobiographical book called "Er ist wieder da" ("Look who's back"), which becomes a massive bestseller. This book is turned into a film, in which he plays the main role.

The strength of the film is in the honest portrayal of Adolf Hitler, something which is very rare nowadays. It avoids the caricatures that have become so common and makes an effort to show him as he really was. It's easy for people today to say he was disgusting or a monster, but that's not how he was seen at the time. He was charming and had an overwhelming charisma. Women especially were overwhelmed by him. It's a brilliant feat that Oliver Masucci managed to portray this, not just in the film but also in his meetings with members of the public.

The most gripping scene is Hitler's first television appearance. He's been told what to say, but he has no intention of letting himself be controlled. He goes on stage and stands in silence. The audience is nervous as he stands staring at them. The television producers are even more nervous, because they think he's frozen. A woman holds up a cue card with the words he has to say, but he ignores her. He hasn't frozen, he's using silence as a means to win his audience. Finally he speaks, and by the time he's finished everyone is applauding him.

This is a dark satire with occasional bursts of humour. For me the humour was an annoyance, and it's only because of the humour that I've deducted half a star from this otherwise perfect film. It would have been better remaining completely serious. The film doesn't make moral judgements, but it does have a strong message. It tells us that if Adolf Hitler lived today he would be just as popular as he was in the 1930's. That's not something people like to hear, but I believe it's true.

The film has only been released in Germany, but the Blu-ray and DVD discs have English subtitles.

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