Thursday, 5 November 2015

Film #35: Er ist wieder da / Look who’s back

Released: 2015
Directed by: David Wnendt 

On a recent trip to Switzerland, I managed to fit in two cinema visits, so I finally have something to write about!

Timur Vermes’ novel Er ist wieder da sold in huge numbers (the English translation by Jamie Bulloch was released earlier this year), so a film was almost inevitable. Given the subject matter, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to watch it – would it prove to be an interesting concept or just incredibly insensitive? In the end, my curiosity got the better of me.

Adolf Hitler (played here by Oliver Masucci) finds himself in Berlin in 2014. Disorientated, he finds his way to a newspaper kiosk and is taken in by the owner. While recuperating from his ordeal, he soaks up all the information in the newspapers and magazines and comes to the conclusion that Germany has gone down the toilet. Meanwhile, beleaguered TV presenter Fabian has been shooting nearby and notices what he presumes to be a Hitler lookalike in the background of his footage. When he manages to find him, he is thrilled by the mystery man’s spot-on Hitler impersonation and decides to use him to revive his flagging career.

And so the unlikely pair tour around Germany. Fabian films “Hitler” commenting on everyday modern life and interacting with the general public. This section of the film blurs fiction and non-fiction in the same way as movies like Borat. What is worrying is the way that most people react – getting really excited, taking selfies, and telling Hitler what’s wrong with society. This (slightly worrying) article from the Washington Post discusses how few people actually responded negatively to what the cast and crew were doing.

After this, the film diverges from the novel somewhat. Hitler has become a huge TV star, and decides to write a book about his experiences (with the same title as the actual book). In turn, this book is turned into a film within the film. Meanwhile, Fabian is slowly realising that this might be the actual, original Hitler – a path that will not end happily.
I can’t honestly say whether I enjoyed this film. In the first section I did find myself laughing at some of Hitler’s observations on today’s world – and immediately felt bad for doing so. At the same time, I couldn’t believe how positive a response he received from the public. I began to lose interest slightly during the film-within-a-film section, but the closing sequence brought me right back down to earth. With “Hitler” riding high on the success of his book and his media presence, the film ends with clips of racially motivated protests and violence – and a suggestion that it might not be that difficult for someone of similar ideology to gain a foothold in modern society. 

There are certainly not many films that can provoke so many responses in just two hours. Er ist wieder da is set for global distribution, and I’ll be very interested to see how it is received around the world.

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