Can you write a comedy about Hitler? Well, Mel Brooks gave the world The Producers and To Be Or Not To Be, including The Hitler Rap. Before that there was Chaplin’s film, The Great Dictator. Those who are fans of Russian literature will have heard of The Heart of a Dog (Sobach’e serdtse), which mocked Stalin, that other great dictator. I rest my case. Maybe as a Brit and as someone with a military background, I understand dark humour more than others.
In the last decade or so, Germans have felt much more comfortable about talking about the war, the Third Reich, “an’ all that jazz.” (Just take a look at the N24 news channel, to see all the programmes from Switzerland under the Swastika to Japanese Nazis to SS Fashionistas…) But depicting Hitler as a human being, rather than as evil personified with a toothbruh moustache? I would argue that that made its debut in Der Untergang (“The Downfall“). (That’s the one with the scene where Hitler:
- Sings the Gummibaer Song
- Rants about going to Lancashire instead of Yorkshire
- Is horrified to discover he’s been out as a member of the British National Party
Comedy about Hitler? But Germans don’t have a sense of humour… (Go and see Good Bye Lenin, in that case, or even Herr Henning Wehn.)
Fast forward to two weeks ago. Schatz and I decided to watch the film of the book Er Ist Wieder Da (by Timur Vermes).
- The younger the Zuschauer, the more they laughed. To be expected. That distance makes it easier to laugh at one big war movie.
- The closer to the end of the film, the less laughter there was. Black comedy makes a serious point. One of the
HJ’syoungsters sitting near me complained ten minutes before the end, “Es ist nicht mehr witzig.” Yes, that’s the point. Black comedy is the iron crossfist in the velvet glove.
- Germans still get nervously silent when they hear the word, “Jüdin” (literally: “Jewess”) even in a comedy. Is it still a taboo word?
- Unlike The Producers, there is no happy ending of funny punchline. Hitler is killed, but he is “part of you all, and you are all part of me.” (“The Führer is dead. Long live the Führer.”)
- The mix of vox pops with scripted scenes was really effective in bringing the film to life. My goodness, Hitler going into a genuine Turkish dry cleaner’s, staning in his vest and Y-fronts, then having to scrape a living as an artist on a market square somewhere…
- Bonus marks to the director for lifting that famous/notorious scene from Der Untergang. I got the in-joke straightaway. So did Schatz. I don’t think anyone else did. Schade.
I give this film five stars (yellow, of course, with the word “Jude” written on each one).
Have a führious day, won’t you!