Just when Mein Kampf has been reissued in Germany on 08jan16 (in a critically annotated edition by the Munich Institute for Contemporary History) as the copyright expired and thus became part of the public domain and Turkish prime minister Erdoğan seemed to praise Adolf Hitler’s effective form of government the extremely popular German comedy Er ist wieder da (Look Who’s Back) hits the Belgian screens.
If you leave Ernst Lubitsch out of the equation Germany is not exactly universally praised for their wonderful sense of humor. A German comedy about Adolf Hitler awakening In Berlin 70 years after his demise in 1945 near the former site where once stood his famous bunker, to be honest my expectations were not that high. All the more pleasant was the surprise that the film was not bad at all. The film is based upon the bestseller of the same name by Timur Vermes which was sold at the symbolic price of € 19,33 (a deliberant hint towards the year Hitler rose to power) and draws parallels with the current reaction to Europe beeing flooded with refugees and judging by some message boards seems to piss off the right-wing.
Via newspapers and magazines and the wonderful new inventions called television and the internet slowly but surely Hitler comes to realise things did not work out as he intended and that Germany underwent a few changes in the past seventy years. He’s not a big fan of actors that have portrayed him, of commercial television (cooking) programmes nor of the current ultra right wing NPD, they’re too soft, he’s more in favour of Die Grünen (The Green Party) as they at least show some love for the German soil. In this perspective there’s a funny scene where Hitler looks at a mountain range, marvels at its beauty and then throws an empty styrofoam coffee cup into the grass.
Hitler is first seen by a down and out freelance journalist/reporter/documentarian. He and the rest of Germany is convinced they’re being confronted by a method actor gone to the extremes, never going out of character, that of the führer Adolf Hitler. He quickly goes viral via the help of social media and thus becomes a popular comedian, the new media sensation. Only a demented jewish old lady sees him for what he really is.
The film opens with aerial images of Berlin seen through clouds, a clear reference to the opening of Leni Riefensthals Triumph des Willens (1934). Some more nods to nazi-propaganda films can be found when sortly after Hitler awakens a football is kicked in his direction and rolls next to him, one of the kids playing football is wearing a Ronaldo shirt, hence he’s being addressed as Hitlerjunge Ronaldo after Hitlerjunge Quex (1933).
In some of the best scenes the filmmakers adopt to the Sacha Baron Cohen style of guerilla filmmaking and drop the actor Oliver Masucci ‘in character’ as Hitler near the Brandenburger Tor or an NPD (the far-right Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands) rally to see how a contempary german public would react to his presence.
In another scene the filmmakers are goofing around with Der Untergang (Downfall, 2004), a TV producer is being told they’ve run out of options and he reacts in a manner copying Bruno Ganz’s performance in the Oliver Hirschbiegel film in a similar scene. By the way, next week Hirschbiegel is returning to the subject of Adolf Hitler with his film Elser (international title 13 Minutes) about the attempt of Georg Elser in 1939 to assassinate the Führer (not to be confused with the von Stauffenberg case as portrayed in the Tom Cruise vehicle Valkyrie, 2008)
And as it’s also a bit of a timetravel movie you may spot some Back to the Future references: there’s a German poster (Zurück in die Zukunft) hanging in the reporter’s house plus he’s often wearing a red jacket not unlike that of Marty McFly (see picture below).
When the reporter first studies the footage in which he accidentially captured the return of Hitler you will notice it happens in a way similar to the return of that other famous Aussie Arnold Schwarzenegger in (yet another eighties timetravel film) The Terminator , in a circular flash of light.