When I started this blog I wanted to use it as an opportunity to talk about pop culture especially films and tv. Jojo Rabbit, written and directed by Taika Waititi, was one of the first films I wanted to discuss, yet I needed to find the right time to do it. On Monday or Star Wars Day, it was announced Taika Waititi would be directing a new Star Wars film. This is great news for both Waititi and the franchise itself. So to celebrate, I thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss Jojo Rabbit and why I love it so much.
When the trailer first aired for Jojo Rabbit many people were understandably shocked at the sight of a young boy dressed in uniform gleefully playing with his imaginary best friend Adolf Hitler. Although they were once common, in this politically correct age, Nazi satires are shocking and distasteful. The thought of making light of such a dark time in history is distasteful and wrong. As someone who loves satire, even I have to admit there can be a very fine line between what is funny and what is offensive. However, anyone familiar with Waititi’s work would know that this subject matter was in very good hands. Waititi, a visionary film director hailing from New Zealand, had recently directed Thor: Ragnarok, the highest-rated stand-alone Thor film on Rotten Tomatoes, it was beloved by fans for its humorous original style. Before this he had been an indie director most famous for What We Do In The Shadows, a hilarious vampire comedy which puts the Twilight movies to shame. Although I hadn’t seen either of these films at the time, I was aware of Waititi as an up-and-coming visionary comedic film director.
Jojo Rabbit is based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens. I have yet to read the book, but I understand it is much darker than the film and Waititi added most of the film’s comic elements. I was quite excited to see the film, it had got great reviews and I thought it was the kind of clever film I would enjoy. I was not disappointed. I loved it from start to finish. The costumes and set design were brilliant, the soundtrack was wonderful and the actors were amazing. Waititi has a particular talent for writing humorous dialogue that is spoken by the characters in these tragic situations. In some ways this adds realism to the film, as the modern dialogue allows the audience to better understand the human aspects of this story.
The main theme of this film, in my opinion, is survival. Scarlett Johannson’s Rosie, must survive the cruelty of the Nazi Regime, whilst bringing up her ten-year-old son Jojo, played by Roman Griffin Davis as a single mother whilst also secretly harbouring anti-Nazi beliefs. This leads Jojo to fully embrace Nazi ideals and gleefully participate in the Hitler Youth. The lack of a father figure in his life, has led him to create an outlandish version of Adolf Hitler, played by Taika Waititi as his best friend, who advises him along the way. To Jojo’s shock, Rosie is secretly hiding Elsa, a Jew, in their attic. Elsa, played by Tomasin McKenzie, has to use all her strength and wits to survive through the horrific regime whilst challenging Jojo’s disgusting prejudice.
Without giving anything away, the story has many tragic elements to it, which are eased with Waititi’s humorous dialogue. I laughed and cried at various points of the film. The horrors of the Holocaust were not lost in the humour and the sense of threat was very real. Yet the film is also hopeful. It also is a great reminder to a modern ‘PC’ audience that every dictator like Hitler has two main goals. Either to be admired or feared. Laughing at them and showing some of the stupidity behind their beliefs is in direct opposition to what they want. How can they be respected or feared if everyone is laughing at them. Would you fear someone who you think is a total moron. Waititi also does a really good job of demonstrating the complexity of his characters, particularly through Sam Neill’s Captain Klezendorf, reminding the audience how not everthing is black and white. Waititi has said that the character of Rosie was in essence a love letter to his mother, who like Rosie raised Waititi as a single mum. This particular aspect of the film struck a chord with me, as someone who was raised by a single mum, I really understand how difficult the situation is for Rosie.
To put it simply Jojo Rabbit is beautiful. If you have not seen it already, I cannot highly recommend it enough. It is the perfect response to the increasing number of authoritarian governments making Fascism fashionable once again. Waititi could not be more deserving of his Oscar for best adapted screenplay and with Thor: Love and Thunder, an animated adaptation of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and the aforementioned Star Wars film, Waititi is certain to establish himself amongst the Hollywood greats.