Look Who’s Back!

Published: 2016-05-05

Once in a while I like to go to a couple of local bookstores to see if I get lucky and find something good to read. A novelty. There are often nice surprises. So about two years ago I saw this novel in the shelf at one of my local bookstores, it had an image, a modern graphic design somehow suggesting Adolf Hitler (mustache and forelock) on the cover all white and just the hair black. You could easily tell who that was even though there is actually no face in this design.

Look Who's Back !

Usually on this topic you find a lot of new history books that are full of historical inconsistencies and propaganda without the objectivity and real research that one might expect from a new history book regarding Hitler’s life and doings.  So I’m not attracted to those kinds of books and therefore I hardly look at them, but this was different. The book I was looking at was a fiction book, a novel written by a German guy.

I read the synopsis from the back of the book. It seemed like a good story: Hitler is back in our time and he is walking the streets of Berlin. How would he act? What would he think of our era? Of Chancellor Angela Merkel going around all over Europe and doing what she think is best for all? What would people think of him today in Germany? Would they support him? Stuff like that.

I can’t remember why but I ended up not buying the book. I saw it a few more times at the same bookstore and I still did not buy it. I thought it would be there for a while since it had been a very successful novel in Germany. Then I forgot about the book and I never saw it again. It had been sold out.

So a week ago I found in Netflix a German movie based on this novel written by Timus Vermes originally titled in German Er ist wieder da.  The movie is called in English Look Who’s Back! When I got the chance I watched the movie. I found myself laughing aloud at some parts of this movie. The level of satire and black humor is beyond what one expects from a German movie dealing with a delicate topic such as the Fuehrer being back and walking around being himself…well sort of.

Humor is the ideal vehicle to deliver a story that lets first the Germans and then the rest of the world look at this historical character not as satanic figure but rather as another politician with an agenda like everyone else. Adolf, by the way, in this movie, thinks all the existing political parties in Germany today are worthless, full of people just looking at their own interests including the ostracized NPD, which he thinks is just a joke.  So for the awakened Fuehrer the only political party worthy of his political support is the Green Party: It represents the preservation of the earth and therefore the survival of the German people. Sounds pretty much like our good old Fuehrer.

Far from just being a film that gets some laughs from the audience it is an interesting social experiment. In a country like Germany where guilt about this historical period, before and during WWII, is almost infused in mother’s milk and in history text books to every single German kid, to talk about Adolf Hitler and being able to do so in a humorous way is a bit of fresh air in a society heavily punished by the constant reminder of a disastrous past.

“Germans should be able to laugh at Hitler, rather than viewing him as a monster, because that relieves him of responsibility for his deeds and diverts attention from his guilt for the Holocaust,”  says Director David Wnendt to in his interview for the British daily The Guardian.

Some scenes from this movie are filmed in public spaces mainly in Berlin, where the main character, who does a pretty good job in portraying the Fuehrer, walks among these public places full of tourists who want to be photographed with him among other interesting reactions as he has some interactions with some of the people here and there.

This is candid camera at its best. This Hitler character goes around asking people what they think of the situation in Germany. Immigration. Economy. Politics. Some are very candid. They do not agree with having thousands of immigrants and the problems this creates for the German people. One person in the film gets to say that he is a nationalist, not a fanatic he says but he will always support the right. I think that these parts of the film allow you to see a side of what the common German citizen thinks about now and even about the past. This is probably one of the most valued aspects of this film. Of course there are also those who react angrily at a guy walking around dressed up like Adolf Hitler and portraying him. But for the most part good humor prevails and some serious issues get to be talked about without the guillotine of political correctness.

In these public appearances Oliver Masucci, who plays Hitler in this movie, says in an interview  in The Guardian,“It was incredible, I was suddenly the attraction, like a popstar”…“People clustered around me. One told me she loved me, and asked me to hug her. One, to my relief, started hitting me. There was also a black woman who said I scared her…” 

Also the same interview for the British daily, Director David Wnendt says “Our idea was to find out how people react to Hitler today, and to his ideas and to ask does he have a chance nowadays…”

The movie also takes a hard look at what the media now is. The “awakened” Fuehrer is astonished by the invention of television and the stupid programs that people watch to be entertained. He also discovers the Internet. In the realm of TV show business he finds a new Goebbels in a TV network in this movie. But the new Goebbels is a she.

There is no intention here to do a complete analysis of the narrative of this movie but rather to emphasize that this movie and the novel that it is based on are a unique event. 

As quoted by The Guardian  from Der Spiegel, in a Germany that is receiving thousands of refugees, this movie “It’s appeared at a time of intense discussion about who is German, who is welcome here, and who is not…”  “Such questions are only a short juncture away from the topic of Hitler.”

I find nothing healthier than to be able to discuss such themes publicly and to encourage a free exchange of ideas within the heart of the German land with regard to these issues without having to watch every word that is being said. It is about time!

 

Additional information about this document

Author(s) Roberto Hernández
Title Look Who’s Back!
Sources http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/oct/06/hitler-look-whos-back-director-david-wnendt-interview https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Merkel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look_Who%27s_Back https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Democratic_Party_of_Germany http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/oct/27/hitler-comedy-look-whos-back-germany-movie-box-office
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Dates published: 2016-05-05, first posted on CODOH: May 5, 2016, 6:40 p.m., last revision: n/a
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