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Jojo Rabbit – A Novel and Brilliant Work of Art!

It has been such a long time for me to see that kind of a brilliant work of art moving through the lovely gyri of the brain with such an amazing imagination and based on a bright idea!

Sorry for waiting all that time after its release in 2019, but all this period just made my feelings stronger to say that it already made its way into the classics of all the times!

Genius plot is created by Taika Waititi (also director), based on the novel Caging Skies (2008) by Christine Leunens. However, the movie differentiates a lot from the novel with a sparkling variety in it. Several structural evidence of that can be observed as including an imaginary harlequin Hitler (played by Taika Waititi himself), physical removal of several family characters such as father and grandmother, no “Jojo rabbit” in the book, and ignoring the second half of the novel and developing its first half which is another brilliant decision to bring into the screenplay. To mention about the tone, trace amount of the irony that could be smelt in the book becomes also the very backbone of the screenplay.

These golden ideas during the adaptation brought Waikiki a more than well-deserved Academy award (Best Adapted Screenplay) on Feb 9th, 2020.

A ten-year-old boy Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) joins a German yooth camp (Jungvolk) of Hitler during the late World War II. While a buffoonish Hitler version is his imaginary friend, we are introduced to the environment where Jojo lives with his Jungvolk supervisors (for instance, perfectly acting Sam Rockwell as Captain Klenzendorff), his friends (best friend as Yorki [Archie Yates]), and his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). Then one day, Jojo discovers a Jewish girl, Elsa Korr (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in their attic!… And the story develops on and on…

I will stop telling about it in here not to spoil the audience’s joy in advance. However, I should express that if the art overall is to look at the events through a child’s eye, then this is what Waititi is exactly doing in here. It is shot from Jojo’s point of view and naiveness, and also gathers us around the same matter of issue like a rock.

Jojo, this innocent, pure boy like any child of 10 years old, is being brought up by a good mother (Rosie) who also represents the good and well-mannered people of that time. On the other hand, he has a strong Nazi idealism in his mind (recall: Hitler as his imaginary friend) which he wants to become one quickly.

One of the most valuable tag line of the film is to show how a child chooses the right path between his mother (right) and Nazi fascism (wrong) side. It is how a mother teaches to treat a person (Elsa) like a person. It is where smart and joking moms, moms who look a tiger in the eye and trust without a fear always win to inspire their little children. Or it is when Rosie says to Jojo “Ten year-olds shouldn’t be celebrating wars, talking politics. You should be climbing trees, and then falling out of those trees.. Life is a gift. We must celebrate it. We have to dance, to show God we are grateful to be alive.”

Even just that standalone tag line is more than enough for appearing on best ever classical lists. Together with cleverly considered additional details such as the following, Jojo Rabbit is simply one of the best of its kind:

  • “shoes metaphor” (from dancing & freedom to that sentimental scene),
  • referral to those times of revealing all abnormalities as normalities (e.g., a group of people greeting themselves with more than 30 Heil Hitler!s in like 1 minute time, or e.g., “kids, it’s time to burn your books” call to children in Deutches Jungvolk),
  • that solid connection to Jojo’s dead sister,
  • racist and “Aryan” believer Hitler’s alliance with Japanese that do not look very Aryan indeed,
  • when times have changed and when it became definitely not a good time to be a Nazi, noone or no nation else but the unforgettable final touch of Captain Klenzendorf to Jojo

World War II days were undoubtedly the wacky days what the earth had witnessed. Some that did not belong to a certain “race”-called thing were not allowed to breathe anymore under the same trees and the same blue skies with the other human beings. Race discrimination resulted in madly deaths in the most cruel ways. These mass murders were insanely rationalized by some “fat man with greasy hair and half a moustache” as described in the movie. Further scarry thing was perhaps the inconceivably accompanying number of hostilely people that went along with that lunatic dictatorship.

Anyway, numerous World War II related pictures have been on silver screen until now. However, none of them like this well-planned and perfectly written and directed plot. Jojo Rabbit has certain things to address, but not in a bold and splashing way that we know up to know. It constructs the story in a child’s mind, and passes it very consistently with a sense of humor and irony.

Cinematography (Mihai Malaimare Jr) was fit for the purpose as well as the editing (Tom Eagels) as editing should have been a bit effortful in particular for such a dynamic flow. Music (Michael Giacchino) or song choices should be acknowledged as well (as this cannot be deemed a spoiler, I am sure that you will enjoy I wanna hold your hand by Beatles and Heroes by David Bowie regardless of any chronological obsession as the film is not intended as a docu-drama obviously).

Fox Searchlight Pictures, TSG Entertainment, Piki Films, Defender Films, and Czech Anglo Productions did a great job as the production companies to add such a stylish work to their portfolio!

Final closing remarks.. There is not only one way of telling a story, especially when the tragedy is more than the human kind can bear and swallow… And Waititi did that brilliant story-telling eagerly, and blended with creativity! It is already shoot and awarded in there. Therefore, I may strongly urge you to watch this tasty piece if not yet, and maybe beyond! (e.g., if you are a teacher, have your students watch it according to your local film classification criteria etc.).