Look Who's Back
A long while ago I heard about a book doing the rounds in Germany about Hitler waking up in 2012 Berlin. From there he takes to Youtube and becomes a media star. Sounds interesting, right? Last autumn, BBC Radio 4 did an adaptation with David Threlfall as Hitler. It was brilliant, the writing sharp, the satire sharper. While waiting for Canada vs Georgia to kick off, I ordered the book. It was even better. Using modern worries, author Timur Vermes walks a very fine line. Using Hitler's voice in first person, you are drawn to this charismatic man, yet just when you start to forget who is making you laugh, Vermes slaps you back into reality with the man behind the humour. It could so very easily not work, but it does and it is a very sobering read. Last year, the Germans made a film of all this. It took huge bank at home and now we have it on Netflix. Needless to say, it is very good.
Directed and adapted by David Wendt with Vermes, the plot of the film follows roughly that of the book. Where it differs is that the Sawatzki (played by Fabian Busch, who was also in Downfall) in the book (Hitler's go to man at the TV company he ends up working at) is fired and discovers Hitler on his own. Together, they head off on a road trip around Germany, posting their encounters with "The Volk" on Youtube. For a month, director Wendt, Busch and Hitler actor Oliver Masucci traveled around Germany filming "Hitler's" interactions with normal people and their reactions, which where not at all negative. The footage, similar to the style of Sasha Baron Cohen's better work, is amazing and also rather scary, especially as this was filmed before the migration crisis. Hitler, interacting with normal Germans, disaffected people, venting their concerns, is eye opening. Never allowing this to go too far, in between montages of people taking selfies with Hitler, there are comic moments, Hitler getting stung by bees and crying, shooting a dog (big plot point in the film) etc. The reaction to this footage going viral is that gets Sawatzki gets his job back and Hitler takes to prime time telly. Here, with everyone still thinking he is a "method comedian" he starts to sow the seeds, not going onto the subjects that would get him taken off air ("The Jews are no laughing matter"), but concentrating on the fears that we saw in the earlier footage. Needless to say, the people love him. Using Youtube-style clips, you see that reaction, initially skeptical, before becoming more and more gushing in their praise. Hitler discovering the internet is just as wonderful as in the book. Seeing the hit they have on their hands, the TV company pushes Hitler to the hilt. Cue a wonderful montage of Hitler on German Political and Talk Shows. The journey that those pinning their colours to Hitler is one we all know. You see an opportunity for advancement, you grab it, it is our world and Hitler plays it just as he did in 1933. The direction is subtle, the acting by all is strong and much like the book, slowly, ever so slowly, Hitler starts to show his colours. The humour gets darker, less painting caricatures to make money, more towards recruiting. It is interesting that in the candid footage, rarely do people turn against Hitler, except in one scene, a drunk rails against him, saying Germany didn't need him. Unfortunately, it looks like they all to willingly want him back. There are brilliant twists on the book and the final act is just brilliant, it even has a wonderful Downfall parody. The film ends with the triumphant Hitler, his film complete ("I'm a part of you; a part of all of you. And look: It wasn't all bad"), rides through Berlin in an open top Mercedes, literally taking the salute of Berliners, this scene cuts to news footage of the rise of the far right in Europe and beyond. As these ends, the camera returns to Hitler who aptly states, "I can work with this."
Look Who's Back is a smart and incredibly timely satire. This is adaptation as it should be, taking a strong source and expanding on it, yet keeping the "soul" of the source material. Given what has transpired since they filmed this, including the populist rise of the AfD in Germany and Donald Trump in The States, Look Who's Back really sends a shudder down your spine, while your laughing consistently all the way through. This film is an odd, scary and brilliant combination.
Look Who's Back is available now on Netflix.