Though a shade too sanitised, Jojo Rabbit does effectively delivers its underlying message.
Jojo Rabbit Synopsis
Ten-year-old Johannes “Jojo” Betzler is a self-professed Nazi fan, whose imaginary best friend is also none other than Adolf Hitler himself. After injuring himself in the silliest way during a Hitler Youth camp, his mother arranges for him to help out at the local Reich office. Mortifying as this is, Jojo would have gotten by, and even enjoyed his tasks, had he not then discover the fugitive Jewish girl his mother is hiding in their house. Through her, Jojo learns about the many traits of the terrifying Jewish race. He also experiences his first romance, and realizes his worst enemy is none other than his beloved Reich.
While watching Jojo Rabbit on Saturday evening, I was reminded of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, one of my favourite movies from the 90s.
This happened despite the 1997 Italian production being quite a different movie. To begin with, Life is Beautiful wasn’t a satire. The young protagonists in both movies are also polar opposites, their only similarities being both were shielded by loving parents and both struggled to understand the war through imagination and fantasy.
Both movies were the same, though, when you consider how they approached the worst of Nazi atrocities. Highlighted but never showcased. Suggested but never introduced. In other words, bound to invite harsh criticism.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t bothered by such sanitisation. I’m no Nazi, just to be clear. Rather, I’ve long thought that it’s impossible to have a definite answer to the question, “Why did they do it?”
In Jojo Rabbit, several possibilities were proposed, albeit possibilities that lean towards being sympathetic to the Germans who supported or were at least tolerant of the Third Reich. Do I feel that such suggestions do grave injustice to the millions who suffered and died under the Nazis? Yes, certainly. But to truly understand the mentalities that endorsed such atrocities, do we not need to temporarily place aside our disgust too? To have a dance with the devil while wearing his shoes? To view the world of then through Nazi eyes?
As far as that is concerned, I think Jojo Rabbit does a splendid job. While also never forgetting to remind that the Third Reich was in and out, a fanatic and murderous regime. One from which no Nazi or German emerges a winner.
Naturally, I doubly enjoyed the movie because of young Roman Griffin Davis, whose surly comedy is a riot throughout. Can you believe this is his movie debut? There are indeed some kids born to be actors!