This is such an unexpectedly moving and funny film. It has a wild sense of humour, a stellar cast of actors and a beautiful love story. It denounces the danger of feeding people preconceived ideas about other cultures, fear mongering and putting people against each other. It’s easy to see that what is depicted in the film during the end of world war II, how the jews were evil in particular, is playing out today between various groups.
I am not a war film fan. Most war films now seem to be a variation of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Most of these glorify war even though they’re also trying to denounce its absurdity. For example, Dunkirk for all its technical and visual mastery felt that way.
Jojo Rabbit on the other hand pushes the fighters’ bravery and the combat scenes to the background. The film focuses instead on a 10 year-old nazi boy who imagines Hitler as his best friend and discovers a Jewish girl lives in his house. Both relationships take place mostly inside the house, away from the atrocities of war.
The film won the People’s choice award at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival. I understand why. Parasite, who was also at the festival, was clever but lacked the humanity found in Jojo Rabbit. This movie feels like a high, it gives you butterflies in your stomach. If you don’t shed a tear during the second part of this film, then you’re made of stone.
When La vita e bella by Roberto Benigni came out in 1998, it suffered some criticism about telling a story about the holocaust through the eyes of a child. Just like that film, some have found it provoking to depict a 10-year-old speaking to his best friend Hitler.
The criticism is always the same: revisiting dark historical moments by injecting humour lessens the atrocity of what happened. I think we should be able to laugh and cry and tell stories about everything including religious figures and dictators. The Producers by Mel Brooks also encountered mixed feelings.
Jojo Rabbit ends on this powerful text by Rainier Marie Rilke. Perfect words to end on.
Let everything happen to you,
Beauty and terror,
Just keep going,
No feeling is final.
This film made me cry like Dolor y Gloria by Pedro Almodovar, another beautiful and touching film. Visual creativity, masterful direction, beautiful cinematography, all that is necessary but I need to be moved and Jojo definitely did.
10 out 10 – Seen with Douglas at Varsity in Toronto, January 18, 2020