This week’s film is our last feature of April’s Blog Free or Die Hard series. I’ve been so intrigued ever since the book, Er ist wieder da, became a bestseller. A satirical novel, it imagines Hitler’s return to Germany in the present and follows its citizens’ reactions to his ideology.
I confess I stopped reading the book, in part because I didn’t want all of my work colleagues to suspect me of being a neo-Nazi. I know—I’ve become that person who hasn’t read the book but watched the movie.
Look Who’s Back
In this mockumentary-style film, Adolf Hitler returns to modern day Germany and enjoys (unintended) success as a comedian.
The Uncondensed Version:
As mentioned above, the film follows Hitler, who has seemingly pulled a Rip Van Winkle when he wakes unchanged in 2014. Instead of being revered, Hitler is astonished that no one pays him the proper respect, preferring rather to selfie with him. It doesn’t take long for Hitler to become disgusted with the current state of Germany and draw the conclusion that democracy has failed. Somewhat unexpectedly, he identifies most strongly with the Green party, which makes an increasing amount of sense when you think about the fanaticism of vegans.
Meanwhile, at a commercial TV station, Katja Bellini has just gotten the big promotion her colleague Sensenbrink fully expected would be his. In a moment of rage, Sensenbrink fires relatively innocent bystander Sawatzki for a poorly timed comment. These men are too emotional for leadership positions. Suddenly out of a job, Sawatzki (which is, ahem, very close to being an anagram for a certain Nazi symbol) is looking for a big scoop. I WONDER what story he’ll find…
Sadly, Sawatzki’s big idea is just touring the country with Hitler and filming their exploits. I feel this kind of thing has been done before and isn’t especially noteworthy? However, what’s remarkable to Sawatzki is how spot-on the impression is and Hitler’s talent for ad-libbing (that was a weird phrase to write).
Hitler and Sawatzki go around Germany with surprisingly mixed results. I felt most conflicted when I identified with Hitler’s annoyance at reality TV programs. Most of them are objectively bad, though.
It gets a bit too real when some Germans speak with Hitler about the immigrant problem, the government that doesn’t represent their interests, and some fucking insane football hooligans beat the shit out of someone who doesn’t support Germany. Hitler starts blowing up on social media and getting a scary number of followers.
All of this brings Hitler to Bellini’s attention, and she’s impressed with his supposed comedy routine. She gives him the chance to appear on a live sketch show, where he starts improvising rather than following the cue cards.
At first the audience thinks Hitler’s routine is funny, but at a certain point the applause becomes genuine and the audience finds many of his ideas appealing. The tried and true method of telling everyone the country is going to shit and only he has the answers works wonders and he goes viral. (Many of the words he utters have honestly come out of Trump’s [Drumpf] mouth.)
Meanwhile, Sensenbrink is trying to discredit Hitler in order to steal Bellini’s job, but nothing seems to do the trick. What will it take to stop Hitler—or is history doomed to repeat itself?
This film is very interested in Hitler’s legacy on German politics and, by extension, world politics. Its title is Look Who’s Back, but it implies that Hitler never really left the world stage. The effects of fascist, xenophobic hate groups have lingered, though they sometimes disguise themselves behind smiles and charisma. Look Who’s Back doesn’t shy away from drawing a correlation between Hitler and groups opposed to immigrants, Muslims, refugees, and outsiders. It encourages viewers to examine this relationship rather than bury it.
Although it’s a satire, a lot of the humor is derived from physical comedy, and it gets a bit didactic at the end and sort of shakes its finger at the audience (there was a pretty great parody of that famous rant scene in Downfall, though). I don’t dispute that certain political groups are in need of a bit of shaming, but it did feel a bit condescending at times. That being said, it does make the film much darker and more thought-provoking than I’d anticipated.
But sometimes you just want to laugh at Hitler.
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads