Sunday, June 12, 2016

Look Who's Back (Er Ist Wieder Da, 2015, German) ****

A couple of years ago, if you had told me that what the world needed was a satirical movie about Adolph Hitler traveling through time to show up in 2014 Germany, I would have said you were nuts. In the light of the present day, I would say this film couldn't be more timely.

Hitler (Oliver Masucci) wakes up in a 2014 Berlin park completely disoriented after an apparently successful time-travel escape from his WWII bunker. People he encounters assume he is an actor, and they laugh and take pictures with him. He finds refuge in a news stand, where he starts to get his wits about him and embark on “the first step...gathering information.” Reading the news, he realizes that the world is perfectly ripe for him to make a comeback, what with economic troubles, unemployment, and immigration issues. A freelance documentarian discovers him and drives him around Germany, filming while Hitler chats up everyday Germans, commiserating with their troubles. He finds deep currents of disaffection with politicians and especially with immigrants. Once he gets on TV, his audience grows exponentially. People assume he is a comedian doing a Hitler act, but his message strikes a nerve nonetheless.

“Er Ist Wieder Da” is based on the best-selling, comedic novel of the same name, but the movie does something the book could not. Borrowing a page from the movie “Borat,” the director films real Germans talking with Hitler, expressing their resentment of immigrants in shockingly candid vignettes. Of course, not everyone is ready to board the Hitler-train. Several of these unwitting movie stars do themselves and their country credit by confronting his ideas. Nonetheless, it's disturbing to see so many Germans openly express support for a man who looks like Hitler, presents himself as Hitler, and promotes Hitler's racist, nationalist ideology. As Hitler says towards the end of the film, “I never presented myself as anything else.”

This is a refreshing, often hilarious cautionary tale, even if it feels a bit long at almost two hours. Star Oliver Masucci absolutely makes the film. He plays Hitler with a riveting intensity and charisma. He demonstrates how any idea, no matter how bad, can be appealing if it is expressed with absolute certainty and confidence. As Yeats said, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

4 stars out of 5

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