Goodness, I have been remiss in my blogging, nearly two weeks, where does the time go?! Umm, well some went by in the cinema. I did go see the latest Jumanji film, loved it; not quite as much as the last one, but adding grumpy old blokes into the mix was fun and I thought the avatars were great portraying the various players. I do hope they stick at that one though – I suspect another outing would jump the shark.
I’ve also been to see Jojo Rabbit, three times, yeah, I like it, a lot. Taika Waititi has such vision and humanity, I love all his stuff (ok, maybe not Eagle vs Shark, that’s an oddball but everyone’s gotta start somewhere). There’s so much about this film that’s brilliant, I decided I should see it a third time to before sharing with you and how good was that idea? Wow, last night I picked up on the cinematography more, seeing bits I hadn’t noticed before. Well worth multiple viewings, my friends.
WARNING, A FEW SPOILERS AND RANDOM THOUGHTS FLUNG OUT WILLYNILLY.
Johannes Betzler is a good little german boy who wants to be the best Nazi he can be; the film starts with him and his best friend Yorki attending a Hitler youth camp, both ready to serve the Fuhrer. Oh dear, straight away he is spotted by the camp bullies as a target for their malevolence (from the moment I saw the older youth look down at him my heart sank), this film does not shirk away from showing how nasty and weak humans can be; when Jojo is ordered to kill a rabbit the other kids join in the “kill, kill” chant, some from the thrill, others would be protecting themselves, glad it wasn’t them, too scared to do otherwise. Poor Jojo runs off into the woods where he is comforted and advised by his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (a ten year old boy’s version of what he thinks Hitler is like, remember this) to “be the rabbit”. Much later towards the end of the film Jojo is out collecting wood and sees a rabbit, the shot lingers, the poignancy of the moment is beautiful.
A lot of the film’s humour comes from showing how scary but ridiculous things can be at the same time (one review I read called it an “absurdist dramedy” which sums it up well), Rebel Wilson’s Fraulein Rahm is a great example, we laugh at her but the reality of such a person, umm. Fraulein Rahm is pure Mel Brooks to me, I can’t be the only one who thought this. The “Heil Hilter” scene with the Gestapo officers is another Brooks/Python moment. Stephen Merchant’s Gestapo agent Deertz is absurd and sinister in equal measure, a jumped-up little man who relishes the fear he can instill.
Against these types we have Rosie Betzler, Jojo’s mother, a lioness protecting her cub. Scarlett Johansson is brilliant, as all her award nominations will attest. Rosie is smart, sassy, stylish, fearless and ever hopeful; she is distributing “Free Germany” messages and harbouring a Jewish girl, Elsa. Elsa is living behind the panelling in Jojo’s deceased sister’s bedroom (Elsa and Inge had been friends). Elsa has a calm, stoic quality and she isn’t afraid of a little boy spouting Nazi dogma. She sees through Jojo’s bravado and recognises it as naivity, when he angrily blusters, “I like swastikas!” she retorts, “You’re not a Nazi, Jojo. You’re a ten year old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club.”
Then we have Captain Klenzendorf (Capt K from here on in), a German soldier in charge of the Hilter Youth camp (embittered that he was taken off the front line after he lost an eye), later demoted to office duties after an incident at the Camp involving Jojo and a hand grenade. Capt K knows the war is all but over, he knows Germany won’t win, he admires Rosie, recognises her as a good person. The captain and his second in command turn up at Jojo’s house shortly after the Gestapo have arrived; part of my third visit was to watch this bit more closely. I surmise that either he knew that Rosie was in trouble or he recognised the Gestapo car parked outside. Either way he was trying to protect Jojo and showed us his true colours by aiding Jojo and Elsa in their deception.
Sam Rockwell is always great but Capt K is a great creation, it reminded me very much of Hugo Weaving’s Sergeant Farrar in The Dressmaker. The two are gay men with a flair for flamboyant design but have to hide in plain sight, only revealing more when they know it’s over; Farrer as resplendent in his matador’s outfit, Capt K in his “accessorized” uniform. In The Dressmaker Farrer implicates himself as the hashcake supplier to save Tilly; Capt K pulls the army jacket off Jojo and lashes out calling him a filthy Jew, the captain’s expression as they drag him away says it all.
Jojo Rabbit and his friend Yorki are brilliantly played Roman Griffin Davis and Archie Yates. Roman’s performance will move you to damp eyes at the very least, and Archie gets some of the best lines in the film. It struck me that the pair would be great as Ralph and Piggy if someone were to remake Lord of the Flies just now.
Anyways, I’ve rabbited on quite enough. There’s loads more I can say about his mum, Hitler, Jojo’s desperate lie to hold on to Elsa, the music, the dancing, bathing suits, amongst other things. It’s a beautiful, funny, tender, irreverent, life-affirming, thought-provoking film. If you haven’t already, go see it!!!
It also reminded me of my favourite German word.