Look Who’s Back Brings a Different Perspective to Life

Look Who’s Back Brings a Different Perspective to Life

Warning: This piece may contain instances of severe plot spoilers. Please proceed with caution.

What if Hitler didn’t die in 1945 and instead woke up in the 21st century? That’s the premise of the 2015 black comedy film Look Who’s Back directed by David Wnendt based on the 2012 novel of the same name. While its idea may seem absurd at first, the film uses this absurdity of Hitler coming back to life to explore the problems plaguing German society today and explain how evil leaders like him gathered the support of the people.

Look Who’s Back is essentially a “buddy film” where the recently fired filmmaker Fabian Sawatzki travels through Germany with Adolf Hitler trying to adapt to the 21st century. Sawatzki films YouTube videos about Hitler’s interactions with regular Germans, and Hitler is eventually broadcasted on TV after impressing MyTV executive, Katja Bellini. He became a comedy sensation, and using his newfound popularity, he returned to politics with Bellini as his assistant.

While the plot of the film is made up of scripted scenes, Sawatzki and Hitler’s interactions with ordinary German people are unscripted and provide insightful glimpses into German society. These scenes contribute to the absurdity of the film, but also highlight the undercurrent of nationalism and xenophobia that still pervades German society today. In this clip, the film exposes the negative feelings of Germans from all walks of life towards immigration, their lack of faith and feeling of powerlessness under the democratic system, and as Hitler puts it, the “discontent among the people that reminded [him] of 1930.”

The film’s tone shifts dramatically just before the climax when Sawatzki discovers Hitler’s true identity, transforming from black comedy to dread and horror. When Hitler visits the home of Sawatzki’s Jewish girlfriend, Franziska Krömeier, Krömeier’s grandmother immediately realizes that Hitler is real. Her response to Krömeier’s explanation that Hitler is a satire actor is chilling, as she reminds the audience that “back then, people were laughing at first, too.”

After Sawatzki uncovers the true identity of Hitler, he holds Hitler at gunpoint and leads him to a rooftop. When Sawatzki declares Hitler to be a monster, Hitler calmly retorts that if Sawatzki condemned him to be a monster, he has to condemn the ordinary people who elected him as well. Despite his wavering courage due to Hitler’s words, Sawatzki pulls the trigger and puts a bullet into Hitler’s head.

But Hitler then appears behind Sawatzki, declaring that Sawatzki can never get rid of him because he is “a part of you.” It’s then revealed that everything in this scene is actually Hitler and his film crew shooting a new movie. The real Sawatzki? He was put into a mental institution after unsuccessfully trying to convince Bellini that Hitler was the real Hitler.

The film ends with a montage of videos showing protests, political violence, and riots throughout Europe. As Hitler and Bellini tour Germany greeting everyday Germans, the film ends with Hitler declaring “[he] can work with this.”

The key insight the film tries to convey is that the evils of fascism are not because of the manipulation of the people by a few extraordinary monsters like Hitler, Goebbels, or Himmler. People were not fooled by their propaganda, but supported and elected them willingly because compared to a weak and dysfunctional government like the Weimar Republic, they were more willing to entrust the fate of their country to extraordinary leaders. If democratic governments don’t properly care for their citizens and listen to their problems, then people will choose someone who may, even at the cost of democracy.

Isolating the evils of fascism to a few individuals is also a denial of Germany’s past and ignorance of current issues in Germany. Though German culture since the late 20th century has focused on Vergangenheitsbewältigung (“struggle of overcoming the past”), the lingering problems of nationalism, opposition to immigration, xenophobia, and east-west divide fuels a silent anger among the people. That anger is what led to the collapse of previous governments like the Weimar Republic, and that anger can be manipulated again to lead Germany’s future astray.

All in all, Look Who’s Back is a hilarious black comedy film that offers insightful explorations of both past and current issues in German society. Its entertainment value complements its social commentary by allowing people who are not familiar with Germany’s society to enjoy the film and learn from it.

Photo courtesy of FLICKR

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