Jojo Rabbit: A Review

Jojo Rabbit: A Review

Jojo rabbit is a war comedy written and directed by Taika Waititi. It is also adapted from Christine Leunen’s famous book, ” Caging Skies”. This movie contains dark humour and deep symbolism woven around the harsh realities faced by the youth during the Nazi period in the city of Falkenheim, Germany. I recently stumbled upon this movie and thought this is a review worthy piece due to its unique approach in unfolding the tragedy of Nazi youth under the rule of Adolf Hitler. The story is told through the perspective of a 10 year old boy, Johannes Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) who idolises Hitler and imagines the ruthless dictator as his imaginary best friend. The story wraps around his point of view on war, politics, and Nazi ideologies and also,Hitler is portrayed as a goofy, impish clown as he is a fragment of Jojo’s imagination who influences every bit of his character. The name of this movie might sound funny but it is actually Johannes’s nickname after his refusal to kill a rabbit to prove his worthiness to become a Nazi, so it’s pretty sad. He talks to Hitler in his imagination and fully believes in the Nazi theories while his mother, Rosie played by Scarlett Johansson, secretly hides a Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin Mackenzie) in their apartment. Scarlett’s performance as a supportive mother and as a person who thoroughly rejects the Nazi propaganda can be appreciated, as her character helps Jojo gradually realize the futility of Hitler’s anti-semitic theories. Furthermore, his growing friendship with Elsa causes him to interrogate the blatant lies, including fatal antisemitism that he was taught at school.

This movie contrasts the lie with the reality of humanity of those who are being racialized and hated. Elsa is a prime example for this as she tangibly showed Jojo that childhood is not about glorifying war and violence. Waititi also shows the confusion of Jojo, as he is conflicted on what is right and what is wrong, through quirky humour. Having a ten year old protagonist really makes everything funny as it reflects the unspoiled nature of childhood. What I like about this movie is that, unlike the typical dull colour scheme from most of the war movies, Jojo rabbit shows a brighter pallet eventhough it gradually fades into darkness as Jojo’s perspective changes. I was profoundly affected by the raw potrayal of war in movies like schlinder’s list, All quiet in the Western front, 1917, Hacksaw ridge and The pianist. But, don’t worry you won’t encounter any depressing scenes in this movie, yet the plot twist might shock you.

The cinematography is simply incredible and so is the acting, the visuals, even the music by Michael Giacchino is surprisingly good. Trust me when I say Waititi has a very different lovable comic style because you can see it through his other movies like Thor: Ragnarok as well. I think this is why this film won the academic award for best adapted screen play while also being nominated for 5 other awards at the same time. He has a unique and vibrant style of direction as he perfectly balances emotional drama with light hearted comedy. The film explores the themes of love, friendship, futility of war, ignorance and childish innocence. Most of these themes are brought out through satire and humour. I would say Jojo rabbit is a movie that defies traditional depictions of war and it is an insightful interrogation of Nazism and anti Semitism from the perspective of a boy who is forced to live the life of a Nazi. The final message is hope, as Waititi is holding up these horrors for us to see, he tells us that hope and joy must exist even in the darkest times of our lives otherwise how can we survive? As in the last scene it says “let everything happen to you, beauty or terror, just keep going. No feeling is final”. So, if you are looking for a film that will make you laugh, cry and think deeply at the same time, “Jojo Rabbit” is a perfect choice.

Have fun watching!!!

-Rtr. Uvinya de Zoysa

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